“We will not be defined by the act of a cowardly hater”
–Mayor Buddy Dyer
June 12, 2016 is a day most of us will never forget. I woke up that day frantically reaching out to friends and family back home as I watched friends on live television carrying bodies across the street. I re-watched snapchat stories over and over, refreshed Facebook messages, and kept checking Instagram in hopes I would get a response from friends I knew were out the night before. I couldn’t sleep right, I couldn’t eat right, and I couldn’t think right for days following the tragedy that happened at Pulse Nightclub. I remember refreshing the victims list on the Orlando Sentinel homepage repeatedly, scared of who would be on it. I flew back home on emergency leave the following Wednesday to be with friends and family and help out in any way I possibly could. Living on the other side of the world is great until tragedy affects the ones you love most and there’s nothing you can do about it but pray. One year later and I’ve never been more proud to be from the city of Orlando. A year ago the city came together donating blood, raising millions of dollars for the victims and their families, and providing grieving centers for everyone affected. A year ago the city of Orlando learned what it truly meant to be united as one entity and we learned what it meant to truly love one another, overcoming hate with love. A year ago, we chose to prove to the world that love conquers all. One year later and this city is more united than ever before.
There will always be people who choose to live their life full of hatred, always. It’s in the way you respond to hatred and tragedy that defines who you are as a person, a city, and a nation. We go out with the intentions of having a good time, to forget about the stresses of our everyday life and enjoy life. June 12, 2016 forty-nine beautiful people went to Pulse Nightclub with those same intentions, except their lives would be ended by a senseless act of hatred and violence. The Orlando Police Department and surrounding counties, the Orlando Fire Department, and every single worker at ORMC to include one of my best friends, Aspen, worked together that night with the intention of saving as many lives as possible. Thank you. The days following the tragedy, every single person I know got off their ass and helped in one way or another whether it was standing in line for hours to donate blood or bringing water to those waiting in those lines, planning a fundraiser, or attending a memorial. Thank you. The world showcased their support for Orlando, holding their own memorials and fundraisers in support for our city and love for the victims. Thank you. Love will always overcome hatred, always.
Living in the area Pulse Nightclub is located, I pass it frequently when I’m home. I’ve stopped by twice since the shooting and each time, the club has more and more added to what started as a small memorial for the forty-nine victims. The fence surrounding the nightclub is now covered in cards, flowers, pictures, flags, anything you can possibly imagine to show support to everyone who was involved in the tragedy. Orlando, FL showcased to the world that we would not let hate win. Love isn’t defined by your sexuality, love can’t be defined because love is love is love is love. I’m proud to be from a city that has come together as one and is continuing to work together to be better people and a better community. Orlando is more than theme parks and tourists, Orlando is a home to thousands of people and I’m proud to be one of them. Love will always overcome hate and kindness will always outweigh violence. To the forty-nine victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, we love you and there isn’t a day that passes that any of you aren’t thought about. Every single one of you mattered and you still matter. One year later and Orlando still chooses to be Orlando strong. One love, one city, one pulse. Until my next post, inshalla.