While the Orlando nightclub shooting is affecting many across the nation, and even the world, many people in Sedalia have been personally affected, as a former Sedalia resident was in the club at the time of the shooting.
Christopher Hansen is a Smith-Cotton graduate who now resides in Orlando, where he recently moved after living in Ohio, according to his brother, Duane Hansen, of Sedalia. Duane said he had been texting Christopher that night and knew he was headed to the gay nightclub, Pulse, with a friend, who later left the club before the shooting.
According to the Associated Press, a gunman, identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub early Sunday, killing at 49 people and injuring dozens more before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Authorities were investigating the attack on the Florida dance club as an act of terrorism.
Duane wasn’t able to contact Christopher right away, and wasn’t able to talk to him on the phone until around 2 a.m. Monday after a day of media interviews and sleeping for Christopher, but he was able to contact their father to let them know he was safe.
“He had called my dad during the shooting and later reached him again,” Duane told the Democrat by phone Monday afternoon. “He lost power to his phone, his battery died. He called my dad, then my stepmom saw him on the news online. She informed my dad about the seriousness of his call (Sunday) night. We’re thanking God he’s still alive. It’s just a real crazy event.”
When Duane was finally able to talk with Christopher, he said Christopher sounded “traumatized.”
“He sounded like it was still emotional. Sounded shook up,” Duane said. “We’re all worried about him. I think he’s a hero for staying and helping those people, talking and letting it be known. He was able to compose himself enough to get on TV to let the audience know what happened from the inside point of view.”
Christopher has been seen in newspapers and on news broadcasts across the country, as he was one of the first witnesses to be interviewed by reporters on scene early Sunday morning. Those news clips include footage of Christopher and several others carrying one of the injured victims out of the club to get medical help.
For that and many reasons, Duane is calling his brother a hero.
“Thankfully he’s alive and was as strong as he was to hold himself to talk on TV. A lot of people were talking to him, thanking him for being on TV and letting them know what was gong on,” Duane said. “One of the deceased’s mother thanked him for letting everyone know what was going on because she didn’t know. He’s definitely a hero and a victim. He sounded traumatized on the phone over the whole thing.
“… My brother is not just my hero but of others as well. I believe he’s a good voice for the LGBT community and I think he was born to do that. People need to recognize hate isn’t good and gay people aren’t out to hurt anybody. I’m glad he’s safe.”
The University of Central Missouri will host an vigil at 4:30 p.m. today in Elliott Student Union 237A-B to provide a place for the Warrensburg and University of Central Missouri communities to stand as one in support of the LGBTQ community following the recent tragedy in Orlando. All interested individuals are invited to attend.
The vigil is sponsored by the university Office of Mentoring, Advocacy and Peer Support (MAPS) and the Office of Student Activities. Activities include remarks by University President Charles Ambrose, UCM professionals and spouses Amber Clifford-Napoleone and Tara Napoleone-Clifford, and a representative of the Warrensburg Ministerial Alliance.
For more information about the UCM vigil, contact Tara Napoleone in the MAPS office at [email protected] or 660-543-4156.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.