business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

Cory James Connell. Mercedez Marisol Flores. Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo.

They were just three young people who worked hard all week in their retail jobs and went to a dance club on a Saturday night to have fun.

Tragically, they chose the Pulse nightclub in Orlando the same night gunman Omar Mateen opened fire with a military assault rifle and a Glock pistol, killing 49 people in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. It was declared a hate crime and an act of terrorism.

When their names were listed among the victims, the June 12th tragedy became personal for their co-workers and customers at a local Publix and two Target stores. A third Target employee also was among the 53 people wounded.

Cory Connell, 21, had worked stocking shelves at the Publix in College Park for two years while attending Valencia College with hopes of becoming a firefighter. He had gone to Pulse with his Colombian-born girlfriend because it was Latin Night and she wanted to teach him how to salsa.

Immediately after the shooting, a memorial was created in the store for the young man known for his cheerful demeanor, local news outlets reported. Last week, hundreds gathered in front of the Publix for an evening vigil. Cory was named an honorary Orange County firefighter at his funeral.
Mercedez Flores, 26, began working at Target after she graduated from high school in 2008. She studied literature at Valencia College, loved music and wanted to become a party planner.

Known to his friends as Omar, the 20-year-old Ocasio-Capo had been a barista at the Starbucks in the Target in Kissimmee for two years. The aspiring actor/dancer had an audition scheduled for the Tuesday after the massacre.

On that Tuesday, Target employees in Orlando gathered in a heart-shaped circle to honor their co-workers with a moment of silence. The retailer said Target teams across the country and at headquarters in Minneapolis also observed a moment of silence.

While there is no playbook on how to respond to such a tragedy, I think both Publix and Target addressed the crisis appropriately and with enormous compassion.

Target Corporation announced a donation of $250,000 to the OneOrlando Fund in honor of Flores and Ocasio-Capo, saying the “horrific event was made even more personal by the tragic loss of two of our own team members.”

Publix Super Markets Charities also donated $250,000 to the OneOrlando Fund in hopes it would “help the families and community in the healing process.”

Both retailers worked to donate water, food and ice to emergency responders in the 48 hours after the shooting

Other companies with ties to Florida which have made significant donations include Comcast, which owns Universal Studios, $1 million; Disney, $1 million; Darden Restaurants, $500,000; the DeVos Family (Orlando Magic), $400,000; Wells Fargo, $300,000; and CVS, $100,000.

The massacre was also personal for Universal. Another victim was Luis Vielma, 22, who worked on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter rides at Universal Studios theme park. Universal employees and friends gathered outside the Hogwarts castle for a memorial and to raise their wands to him last week. “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling expressed her sadness about his death on Twitter, and sent a wreath to his funeral with a note “you will never be forgotten.”

While it was Latin Night at Pulse, a primarily gay nightclub, the Latino and LBGT communities in Orlando were particularly hard hit by the tragedy. But the stories of these victims illustrate how they were just like all of the young people who work hard all week in retail or customer service, looking forward to having fun on Saturday night, only to have their lives cut short by assault weapons and a madman who pledged his allegiance to terrorists.

They should never be forgotten.

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