ORLANDO, FLA. — Tiffany Smith woke up Sunday morning to nearly 40 missed calls from her mom.
She immediately knew something was wrong.
Minutes later, the Florida college student would find out that the worst mass shooting in U.S. history had unfolded at a gay nightclub in downtown Orlando.
A gunman opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub, leaving at least 50 dead and dozens injured early this morning.
It’s a club that Smith, 21, and her friends, who are members of the LGBT community, have frequented.
Smith immediately started checking in with friends to make sure they were safe. Then she and two friends decided to go to a blood bank in Orlando and donate blood to help in some way.
“This is a tragic incident that happened in an area that I live,” said Smith, who had never donated blood before. “I do believe it was an attack on the LGBT community. And I do believe it’s extremely important to be involved.”
She was among the hundreds of Floridians who turned out to the OneBlood donation center in Orlando on Sunday. Tears filled people’s eyes as the names of some of the victims and more details of the shooting started to be released.
Jenni Womick is praying that her friends are all OK.
A therapy dog handler, Womick knew that bringing her dog Captain Jack Sparrow to the blood bank would be a way that she could help after the shooting.
“It’s amazing to see everyone come out and support the victims and the community,” said Womick, 38, of Kissimmee. “It’s amazing and heartbreaking. I’m overwhelmed by it all.”
Womick saw the news on Facebook early this morning and immediately began checking in with friends.
“It’s maddening that someone can walk in and because they have so much hate in their heart they can do something like this,” Womick said.
State Sen. Darren Soto immediately turned out to offer his help at the blood bank.
“We face the deadliest shooting in the history of the United States. Still shocking to us today that this has happened. . . . It’s beyond comprehension.”