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One Year Later: UNF Students Try To Make Sense Of Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Ryan Benk

A year after a gunman opened fire at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub, killing 49, young LGBT students at the University of North Florida joined school staff and counselors to reflect upon the tragedy.

A couple dozen people crowded the LGBT Resource Center on UNF’s campus Monday. They introduced themselves before starting the difficult conversation.

Economics student Chris Jordan said the center helped him feel more comfortable in his own skin.

“For me personally it means really everything. It’s the reason I chose the University of North Florida for my studies,” he said. “I would say it’s the difference between feeling as though you can integrate in a community and can participate in that community fully, versus feeling excluded.”

Jordan said the sense of community on campus gave him the courage to start going to gay clubs like Pulse.

For English major Troy Capers, the shooting punctuated a tumultuous year of self-discovery.

“Being confronted with an outpouring of hatred that is just completely inexcusable I couldn’t be neutral any more. So, I’m building myself to be a person who can take action and person who can be there for people,” he said.

According to a2016 Gallup poll, millennials and the generation proceeding identify as LGBT more so than any generation on record.

At the same time, theNational Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found the massacre made last year the deadliest for LGBT people since it began its national survey two decades ago.

Staff at the resource center say they’ll be available for any students still having a difficult time processing the tragedy.  

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Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.