Sen. Bill Nelson spoke on the Senate floor this evening to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack. Earlier today, Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a resolution in the Senate to honor the victims. A copy of the resolution is available here.
Below is a rush transcript of Nelson’s remarks and here’s a link to watch video of his speech.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate Floor
June 12, 2017
Sen. Nelson: Madam President, I will not be addressing the matter before us because I have just come from Orlando, where so many are feeling such deep, deep sorrow today, it being the on one-year since the tragic attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
And the horror of that early morning — that still remains so fresh for so many, especially those hundreds and hundreds of people that gathered at the Pulse nightclub this morning on the occasion of a one-year since the tragedy. There was quite a ceremony, and it was basically to remember the 49 innocent souls that we lost.
It was a massacre of huge proportions. It was done by a terrorist, and what terrorists want to do is they want to divide people, they want to terrorize them, they inject fear.
Interestingly, the terrorist, although he changed the lives of so many people, his name was Omar Mateen. He took the lives of 49 people, and he changed a lot of other lives that were wounded and, of course, the families of the 49 victims are still suffering.
But, interestingly, when a terrorist wants to divide and inject fear, it has had the opposite effect in Orlando. It has unified people. It has unified the community like I have never seen before. It has unified our state. Indeed, it has unified our nation. And so quite the opposite effect has happened from what the terrorist intended, other than the slaughter of 49 innocent lives.
Sadly, these are the 49. And they are all being honored today. It was a very moving ceremony.
One of the causes that came out of the unification of Orlando was that instead of creating a number of victims’ funds, they put it all in one fund. Tens of millions of dollars have now gone into that fund, and in fact it is helping finance some of the victims who survived and their medical expenses, some of the families and the loved ones of those who were lost.
And it’s interesting, as you were there, suddenly those moments came rushing back. I had heard about it early on Sunday morning when the news broke from the massacre the night before that had occurred in the early morning hours. And as I raced from my home into downtown Orlando on South Orange Avenue, I was able to get on the telephone the number three at the FBI, and he gave me authorization to tell what they originally were anticipating, what had happened. And once I got to the scene, I was able to share that. Of course, they had the representative of the FBI. on the scene. They had set up a command post. The mayor, Buddy Dyer, had taken charge. And it was quite a scene.
The tales of heroism are nonstop. The Orlando police department swat team that went inside — and before they could get the SWAT team there, members of the police department and the sheriff’s department. One block away is a fire station. It became a triage point. First responders got there trying to save people’s lives. Because of the massive number of casualties — 49 — that while the gunman Mateen was holed up in one of the bathrooms with hostages, some he had already shot and bled to death — while he was back in the bathroom, police and paramedics were going into and pulling people out in those early morning, dark hours. And, of course, they were just using whatever vehicle — if there was a pickup truck, they would take the victims and put them on the truck. And, fortunately, Orlando Regional Medical Center is only about six to eight blocks away. And, of course, it is a trauma center hospital.
About a week later, I went in to see the trauma surgeons. There had been a resident getting his residency there as a trauma surgeon, and he was so moved by that experience, he put on his Facebook page and told what he was feeling and showed a picture of his bloody shoes that he didn’t even recognize because he was so busy, until the next day he looked at those shoes. He took a picture of that, put it up on his Facebook page. And then he wrote, you know, to be a trauma surgeon and have just surgeon and have just waves of people coming in. I didn’t know if they were black or white, I didn’t know if they were gay or straight, all I knew is I was doing everything I could to save lives.
In some cases, they would make an initial prep and then they would get the victim who was still living and they’d get them on up to the operating room where other surgeons were taking over. In some cases, they did not have time. They had to do the operation right there in the trauma center. And, fortunately, the one trauma center in all of central Florida is right there at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
So a terrorist — perhaps aided and abetted by his wife — this is an open question and that determination has not been made. A terrorist tried to divide us as a nation, just like they have before on 9/11 and at San Bernardino and in so many other cases where they’ve been foiled or others who you couldn’t label a terrorist but they are in their own ways, involve the killings that have occurred at schools. You lump all of that together, they tried to divide us, and yet Orlando came together united.
And they have a catch phrase for it. It’s called “Orlando Strong.”
America is a nation of compassion, generosity, kindness, and respect. And those are precisely the qualities that we saw from the people of Orlando when they came together a year ago. And this senator saw that again in livid detail this morning.
We are forever grateful for the bravery and the heroism police, the first responders, the sheriff’s department, the FBI, the families, the victims helping other victims.
We are forever grateful for the trauma surgeons and the operating room nurses and doctors, as they save lives.
We’re forever grateful for the hospital and how it completely accommodated all of this mass confusion and how it forgave all of the medical expenses for those who had been victims, both the living and the dead.
We’re forever grateful for those who rushed to the scene that night in the face of uncertainty in the pitch darkness of that nightclub, not knowing where the shooter was.
We’re forever grateful to the skill of the negotiators, as they tried to talk the shooter down and ultimately when he came out with guns blazing, the automatic weapons blazing, they had to take him down.
So to all of those heroes, we want to say thank you.
To all of those heroes also that are the families of these victims, we want to say thank you and to the victims’ families and loved ones, we want to say that even though you lost those loved ones, they did not die in vain.
What we see is out of evil, what we have seen is good.
So thanks to all of Orlando for not only what you did that night, but thank you for what you do every day. And a year later, Mr. President, I can report to the Senate that we are Orlando Strong.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.