Early this Sunday morning an Orlando nightclub was the target of the worst recorded terrorist attack in United States history, since September 11, 2001. The gunman was an American citizen, but had pledged an allegiance to ISIS before the attack.

The FBI had previously investigated the gunman, Omar Mateen, 29, in 2013 and 2014 for offensive comments to co-workers and suspicious terrorism activity. He was ultimately deemed to be not a threat. However, shortly before the attack on June 12, 2016, Mateen called 911 and declared his allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS.

Mateen chose the gay nightclub, Pulse, for his mass shooting. An establishment Mateen’s father, Mir Mateen, stated had made Omar feel uncomfortable. According to NBC news, Mir Mateen is shocked by the attack by his son’s actions but explained it, “has nothing to do with religion.” He went on to say that his son had become angry when he witnessed two men kissing in Miami a couple months ago and that could be the motive for the shooting.

Despite his father’s claims, Omar’s previous investigations by the FBI revealed that he had a connection to an American suicide bomber, and his 911 phone call explicitly stated his loyalty to ISIS and his intention for the attack.

This tragedy is especially devastating for the LGBT community, as they appeared to be the target of the devastation. The timing is also questionable because the shooting occurred during a series of celebrations that mark LGBT pride month.

When a shocking event like this happens it can shake our sense of security and evoke a feeling of being unsafe. These feelings are completely normal, but it’s important to know how to handle them.

1.     Understand everyone responds differently. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to respond. It’s important to acknowledge your emotions and tell yourself what you’re feeling is OK.

2.     Avoid obsessing over the event. When a major tragedy like this strikes, it is reported on every media outlet and the topic of many conversations. While being aware of this event is important, repetitious thinking of fearful experiences can overwhelm your nervous system and make it harder to think clearly.

3.     Connect with your community. The shooting caused feelings of shock and grief to be felt across the nation. However, we as a community still have to move forward. Reach out to your loved ones and neighbors, or organize an activity for your community that can provide a forum for support.

Tragedies like this validate the knowledge that terrible, unpredictable, and unpreventable events can happen and remind us to live our lives to the fullest and to cherish each day we’re given.

Author: Danielle James, Psychology Intern

Danielle is a recent psychology graduate from the University of Central Florida. She has a passion for helping individuals identify and work through emotional and mental health concerns to provide a higher quality of life. Her goals include achieving her Psy.D in Clinical Psychology that allows for a deeper understanding of future clients and a more interactive perspective.