The full speech can be watched here and a downloadable broadcast quality version is available for TV stations here. A full transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
June 12, 2017
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Rubio: A year ago today, Americans, myself included awoke to the shocking news that 49 of our fellow Americans had been killed overnight in one of the deadliest mass shootings, mass attacks in our nation’s history and I recall that day as a Sunday morning and I was home and we were getting ready to go to church as we do and the news was on and we don't usually turn the t.v. on but that day the text messages were coming in it spoke about this horrifying thing that had occurred overnight and the news reports were still sketchy. And for whatever reason be it because of our work here or just the bad gut feeling I remember telling my family that I was going to drive the 3 hours to Orlando to be there because I just felt that there was something beyond the scale and scope of it. A little bit different about this horrifying attack.
As I drove north on the Florida turnpike on the radio the updates kept coming in and it was just the scale of it was just unbelievable. The numbers of people and the numbers kept climbing and there was still not a lot of detail about what was behind it. After I arrived on the scene and was able to interact with some of our federal authorities and state authorities that were there, the picture still wasn't abundantly clear but the one thing that began to emerge is that this was the act of a single individual inspired by an ideology of hate and supported in the pursuit of that ideology by people who before that and since then have been responsible for attacks all over the world.
I think the part that was perhaps the most troubling for a lot of people is that, especially for me, I kind of found myself at that time at 45 years of age kind of at the halfway point between the age of the people that would have been there and the age of someone whose child might have been there and the randomness of it.
The notion that a bunch of people young people went out that night to have a good time with their friends, it was Latin night, this was a well-known nightclub in the LGBT community in central Florida. I don’t think that when you get up at night and get dressed and go out that you think that one of the risks involved is that you are going to end up interacting with the jihadist terrorists. But that’s what happened that night. And the other part that was so startling is that so often for so many of us these bad things happen somewhere else. They happen in France, they happen in London, they happen on 9/11 in New York City. But this happened in Florida, just down the street from a place that I had been just a year earlier, small business furniture store whose owners I had gotten to know as I was writing a book about small businesses and the like. So just the familiarity of it, how close it was to home and the notion, the idea that the war on terror had not just come to America that day, but it had come to central Florida. And ultimately we learned had come to impact people we knew through others and whose stories sounded quite familiar. We now know that it was the worst attack on U.S. soil since September 11 of 2001 and in this time when we are having so many debates about who we’re going to allow into our country and what criteria we are going to use and from what places they can come it’s important to stop and remember that the individual whose name I won’t even say because I think one of the hopes he had is that he would go down in history as a famous person. But that this individual, he lived in our country for a long time. He lived among us since the day he was born.
He was not someone who had come in on an airplane or had just recently arrived from another culture or another society. He was an American, born and raised in the United States. If my memory doesn’t fail me I believe he was born in Queens, New York. And what strikes me is he benefitted from everything this country offers, freedoms, liberty. He knew people, his whole life he lived among fellow Americans. He went to work every morning alongside them. He had all of the blessings and the opportunities and everything this country provides and yet even that was not enough to somehow inspire him not just to take on this evil ideology but to act on it. Obviously the attack was personal for the 49 families with stories of their own and of course the countless others who were injured. I know it was personal to the LGBT community in central Florida. As I said Pulse was a well-known cornerstone of the community, particularly for younger people. And as I said earlier This was deeply personal for Floridians and the people of central Florida, and I’ll get to that in a moment because I’m extraordinarily proud of that community. I think it was personal for all Americans. When I arrived I remember getting there and I see these people largely still it was, I don’t know what time it was, but certainly the attacks weren’t even 12 hours old.
And you just see family members of people they loved, loved ones, in desperate mode. You know that look on your face where “I want to know what happened. I don’t know – the person that I love is inside there. I haven’t heard from them. One of the most chilling things that you hear from law enforcement there is that the cell phones were still buzzing as people were calling their loved ones. It brought home that this wasn’t just 49 as a number. It’s so easy to see that scroll across a television set. Even easy to say it now.
49. 49 human beings. 49 human beings parents with families who loved them, parents who loved them, siblings who loved them. And you saw that firsthand when you get there. And you just see the look of people behind the yellow rope who have no idea if someone who they deeply love and care for lies dead on the other side of that tape as the response came in.
I remember not long after there was a crowd that began to form. People started showing up with signs that said things like “we’re with you. We love you.”
This was early. I’m talking about, as I said maybe 12 to 13 hours after the attack had happened.
I want to commend the law enforcement - federal, state and local – who came together and responded. I saw people coming off duty, people that weren’t on duty that day putting on the uniform and just showing up to see how they could help. We saw the long lines of everyday citizens bringing food and water to support their efforts. Of course later that day long lines of Floridians lined up to donate blood.
So there’s not doubt that this was a community that was heartbroken. But it was also a community that was unbroken that I believe woke up stronger and more united than when it went to sleep the night before.
And I think ultimately, the man who committed this attack, and the people who inspired him to do so, would have been horrified by what they saw. I think they would’ve been horrified to see First Baptist Church in Orlando, a pillar of the Christian evangelical community opening its doors to the LGBT community and welcoming in them and their families and holding services there. I think they would’ve been horrified by that. I think they would’ve been horrified by people putting aside - if for a moment, their voter registration cards, their preferences in the upcoming elections, their backgrounds, the way their last names were pronounced, who they loved – they put all this aside and said “these are 49 Americans and families who just died at the hands of an evil terrorist and we are committed to doing everything we can to providing support for them.” And I think they would’ve been horrified, these terrorists, to see what’s happened since that time. In so many ways, central Florida grew up – and I mean that in a positive way- so much in the last year in terms of coming together and the sense of community and it’s obviously sometimes in tragedy that we see that happen.
But I think it served as an extraordinary inspiration to communities all around the country who hoped to achieve the same level of unity without the tragedy.
And so, while the attack may have succeeded in sowing death and heartbreak, it failed in sowing doubt about our way of life.
And in the year that has followed, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of Americans came together in Orlando in the days after to celebrate the lives of the victims and to begin that healing process. In the weeks and months after the attack, the memorials that were established throughout downtown Orlando marking the loss of 49 of our brothers and sisters. You saw ceremonies held in every part of the state, from Pensacola to Miami, Florida.
One thing really stands in particular. One of the memorials was a set of 49 white crosses that rested aside the Orlando Regional Medical Center, the trauma center where a number of the victims were taken that morning. Those crosses are now at the Orange County Regional History Center. Each one of these crosses is about three to four feet high and has the name of one of the 49 victims.
And people from all across the nation visited this memorial, including at the time, President Obama and Vice President Biden and they came to pay their respects and leave a token of their mourning in the honor of those taken that night. Cards, and pictures, teddy bears, and flowers were set around each cross. And people wrote notes and well-wishes on the crosses to honor the memory of each of the 49.
When the crosses were taken by a police motorcade to the History Center, one mother, who I’ve chosen not to list her name because not for me to do, but she was there to assist that Tuesday with moving that cross. It represented her daughter.
She and her husband I think by now know this, but we share a mutual friend in the Orlando area. And I’ve learned firsthand from him just how hard the loss of their daughter was for them. In the end, before I am a senator or anything else that I do, I’am a husband and a father and I have a child whose name is the same as their daughter. And I for the life of me cannot begin to fathom what they have gone through the past year, along with 48 other families.
And as they moved her cross with her name on it, they saw a note on it that had been written by someone in the community. They don’t know who it was. The note – it was simple, but it was very powerful. The note said: “I never knew you, but I love you.”
And it just strikes me that that line “I never knew you, but I love you” for those of us in the Christian faith it reminds us of what Christ said is one of our greatest commandments: “to Love your neighbor as yourself.”
For the past year we have felt the deep pain but we have also seen, as I said, an Orlando that’s united. One Orlando. In a time when we can always find something to divide us, a community came together to honor the memory of those that were lost.
Each of them was a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a mother or father, a husband, a wife or a partner. And in the end they were part of our families, and of our communities.
Each of them, like all of us, had immense promise and hope. Each, in their own way, were a part of what makes this country a great nation, and they were lost that terrible night one year ago. But they were loved. And a year later, we remember them and those they left behind. And I hope we will honor them by finding a way as a nation to remember that despite our differences on a vast number of issues we are still one nation, under God. The greatest nation on earth. The most extraordinary people to have ever lived.
A nation that is not simply of people bound together by a common blood, a common heritage, a common ethnicity.
America is more than a county- it is an idea. The idea that every single human being has the God-given right to live life as they so choose and to fulfill their potential
And I hope we will continue to work here and everywhere we can to live up to that powerful idea that changed the world.