What it Means to be Orlando Strong
I had an article about finance already lined up for today’s post, but I am an Orlando native. I was born here and I still live here. Considering the terrorist event that occurred yesterday, June 12th, I felt I had to sideline my article and speak out on the travesty that occurred. Orlando sadly is no stranger to gun crime, no different than any other major city; however, this Orlando shooting was far different.
Pulse nightclub is a well-known gay friendly club here in the City Beautiful. Aside from standard bar and club parties, they also fund and host a multitude of educational and support programs for the LGBTQ community. I’ve personally never been, but many of my friends have not only frequented the club, but worked there as well. When I woke up today, a friend from college had mentioned that he lost multiple people yesterday. Multiple. His world is dramatically smaller than it was 36 hours ago. I can’t imagine how he’s feeling. My guess it’s similar to how the families and friends of San Bernardino and Newtown and Aurora shootings all felt. I’m just fortunate enough to not have lost anyone I know. This is my take on the Orlando shooting.
One of the amazing things to me was the solidarity that people have shown in the face of evil. With homosexuality and gay rights still a contested topic in politics and social norms, it was almost strange to hear about how the blood banks and buses were turning people away because they were too overloaded. Multiple locations took in so much blood they actually ran out of supplies to continue. By 3pm on Sunday, the news was reporting that if you weren’t already in line, please don’t try and come out to donate. Assuming most people learned about the Pulse shooting around 9am, it took just six hours for the Red Cross and OneBlood to hit max capacity. People are helping by donating money, they’re helping by helping console victims and their families, and they’re helping by setting aside differences to rebuild the piece of the city that was broken. That’s Orlando strong.
There are vigils and other commemoration events planned. A walk around Lake Nona to standing on the Dr. Phillips Performing Center for a vigil, to just name a few. That’s just locally. For those who tuned into the Tony Awards, they were met with multiple dedications and remembrances for the Orlando shooting; the L.A. Pride parade paid their condolences with people spelling out ORLANDO on large cardboard cutouts as they marched through the city. However, our city is continuing onward. Events that were planned will likely not be cancelled. Terrorism is only as powerful as the power it’s given. It’s by no means as powerful as the will and tenacity of Orlando residents.
I can’t imagine the fear and terror that invaded the minds of those at Pulse. To read some of the text messages that were sent from those trapped was heart wrenching. I read one that was particularly tragic. It’s Eddie Justice’s last conversation with his mom, “He’s coming. I’m gonna die.” The next text message Eddie sent was “He has us, and he’s in here with us”. Eddie Justice did not make it out of the club that night and is one of the confirmed dead.
It’s important to see the Orlando shooting for what it is and is not. The Orlando shooting is a travesty. It is what happens when hate reaches such a point in someone that they begin to physically act on their feelings. It is a reason to take a moment to express care and empathy for those around you. What it is not though, is a reason to take action carelessly and wantonly abandon the big picture in favor of short-term stress outlet. Our most important focus right now should be enforcing the bonds we have with one another and rebuilding the broken pieces to make them stronger than what they once were.
I want to extend my deepest condolences to the victims who had their lives ended traumatically and unnecessarily. I want to tell those that are currently injured and lying in a hospital bed that I wish them well on their recovery. I want to tell the families of the 100 victims that you’re not alone. There are literally a hundred other people who feel the same way you do. I want to tell all those people that I’m sorry there is so much hate in the world. To the LGBTQ community as a whole, I don’t necessarily understand everything in your world, but I do stand with you. I’m sorry people hate you without knowing you – I hope we can change that. Finally, to everyone, I hope we all see now that hate does not breed love. Hate breeds pain and confusion. It creates tears and it creates voids in people’s lives. Do not let hate ruin your life and the life of others. There is never an excuse to let your hate physically alter another person’s life.
One final thing to remember, because this is such an emotional and life-changing event, there is help out there. All you need to do is ask for it. You can get counseling and attend support groups if you’re having trouble coping with the stress of these events. Don’t let your pain cause more pain. Just ask for help, everyone understands. I leave it as an open invitation to anyone affected by this tragedy: if you don’t know who to ask for help, ask me. I will find resources for you to use. Further, if it you’re in a moment and feel you simply can’t take it anymore, please call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. People are there to help. People do love you.
I also want to take a moment to thank the men and women in law enforcement that responded. At the time, the responding units knew it was a possible terrorist attack at a club. Without hesitation, the units jumped onto the interstate and rushed towards where they were needed. Personal and political beliefs meant nothing to them in those moments, even self-preservation was of minute concern. Shots fired with injuries was the call and they drove from as far as 45 minutes away to help those in need. Canine and special units were woken up from sleep at two or three in the morning and rushed to the scene. Thank you for your selfless service. Your actions saved countless lives through securing the scene and applying triage in conjunction with emergency medical services.
Readers, how are you grieving and coping with the tragedy of the Orlando Shooting? I know many of my readers are locals who this directly affected. Please discuss in the comments below. Your words could help create closure for others affected.