By Shelby Mullis
It’s 3 a.m. on Sunday, June 12 — three hours into what Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer called “the most difficult day in the history of the city of Orlando.”
Dyer was fast asleep in his Florida home when he received the phone call he said every mayor dreads.
It was at that hour that Orlando’s deputy police chief informed Dyer of an active shooter at the Pulse Orlando Night Club, an LGBT bar and lounge where multiple casualties now lie and several hostages remained.
Just hours following the initial phone call to Dyer, a 911 call came in — the suspect pledged his allegiance to the Islamic state, ISIS.
There were a lot of casualties — 49 dead and 53 wounded.
All because of one heavily armed gunman.
Days later, Dyer is still left trying to comprehend one question: “How and why could this possibly happen in Orlando?”
Now, Dyer is using what is known as the worst mass shooting in U.S. history as an educational tool.
Struggling with the decision to leave Orlando and travel to Indianapolis for the 84th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors just two weeks later, Dyer, a Democrat, said it was clear that this is a new world and it’s important that the nation’s mayors know how to prepare and respond to similar events, which is why he decided to attend.
“We’ve not been defined by a hate-filled act of a radical killer, but by our collective response of love, compassion and unity,” Dyer said. “We are Orlando united.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said Dyer’s appearance gives the nation a look into what is being discussed at this year’s meeting concerning public safety.
“It’s a world that any one of our cities could be the site of an intentional mass shooting,” Dyer said during his Sunday presentation. “What I want to focus on is mayors and our responsibilities. The way that Orlando responded to this tragedy probably hasn’t been perfect, but I’m extremely proud of the way that we did respond.”
The most important job of a mayor in an event like what occurred in Orlando is to turn their attention to communicating with the public, according to Dyer.
Following his play-by-play of that tragic day in U.S. history, Dyer shared four lessons learned with the 215 mayors in attendance at Sunday’s event in Indianapolis.
“I recall on Sunday morning how fortunate we were to be able to call on our partners in the community of every conceivable sort,” Dyer said. “As mayor, I think that shows the value of doing the daily work of being a mayor and touching your people, touching everybody.”
Dyer said it was these relationships that his city was able to immediately tap into on June 12, and he urges others to build similar relationships.
Second, Dyer focused on the importance of investing in the tools, training and technology needed to prepare for a similar tragedy, while also being financially ready — his third tip.
“Finally, the last thing I want to talk about in the last two weeks is the value of having really, really great people in your organization,” Dyer said.
“You have to have good people, and then you got to turn them loose and let them perform.”
Dyer said it was these four lessons that made the work easier, but even 14 days later, the pain still remains.
“It’s strange to turn on a TV in a place like Indianapolis and still have Orlando as one of the lead news stories,” Dyer said. “I know we’re eventually going to get through this, but every day brings unexpected challenges.”