Alli Knapp knows the exact time a gunman entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and began shooting people early one morning in 2016.

“His first shots were at 2:02,” Knapp said. “It was during the ‘last call.’ A RuPaul drag performer was wrapping up her set. By 2:18 the shooting stopped. He had fired over 200 rounds within that 16 minutes.”

The gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53. At the time, it was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and it remains the deadliest attack on the nation’s LGBTQ+ community.

On Monday evening, Knapp and a few dozen members of the city’s queer community joined supporters in an athletic field at Alton Playground in Beechview to mark seven years to the day since the attack, and to remember those who died.

Standing together, Ciora Thomas, founder of SisTers PGH, and Guillermo Velazquez, executive director of the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corp., read aloud the names of each of the 49 victims. At the time of the shooting, Pulse was hosting a “Latin Night”; most of those killed were members of the Latino gay community.

Renaissance City Choir sang the lyrics “We are here in the memory of those who have fallen” from the song “Courage to Be Who We Are” while two people stood nearby, displaying pieces of colored paper on which the names of the victims were written.

Members of the Renaissance City Choir sing “Courage to Be Who We Are” while names of the Pulse victims are displayed. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

The event, organized by Pride Beechview, came at a time when members of the LGBTQ+ community are under increasing attack. The Human Rights Campaign last week declared a “state of emergency” for LGBTQ+ people in the United States. The organization noted a spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in state houses across the country. 

Homophobic and transphobic hatred is resurgent in the United States, said Emma Yourd, Democratic nominee to represent District 6 on the Pittsburgh Public Schools board.

Guillermo Velazquez, executive director of Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corp., reads names Pulse victims. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

“There are currently 491 anti-LGBTQ bills across the country that are being tracked by the ACLU,” Yourd said in a brief speech to the crowd. “Our trans youth are particularly vulnerable as legislation is considered that would force teachers to ‘out’ students or to report parents who are supporting transitions to child protective services.”

Knapp, too, noted the particular threats faced by members of the trans community.

“My best friend in the world is trans, and I’ve seen how this year is impacting them,” Knapp said. “It is a year of attack, attack, attack. I can’t imagine being a trans kid. I can’t imagine being someone who needs to come out right now. It’s terrifying.”

These continuing threats make remembrances such as Monday’s especially important, Knapp said.

“Queer people are very transient,” Knapp said. “A lot of us move around a lot, and so my friends and I were all calling each other the day after the shooting, asking, ‘You weren’t in Florida were you?’ My friends and I used to party in D.C. What if it would have happened in D.C? What if it had happened here? It could have been anywhere.”

Nina’s Moon Witch Dancers perform a candle dance at the Beechview vigil. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Steve is a photojournalist and writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he is currently on strike and working as a Union Progress co-editor. Reach him at

Steve Mellon

Steve is a photojournalist and writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he is currently on strike and working as a Union Progress co-editor. Reach him at