I woke up earlier than expected Sunday morning. My phone was buzzing with a notification sound I had never heard before, over and over again. Confused and thinking maybe I accidentally set some kind of alarm the night prior, I picked up my phone to switch it to silent and hopefully get some more sleep. When I looked at the screen, however, I immediately knew something was wrong. Dozens of friends and family members all in my hometown of Orlando, FL were checking in via Facebook’s safety check for terrorist attacks. My hands started shaking as I hastily scrolled through posts, getting bits of information while newer, more devastating updates continually poured in.
Seeing the headline “Biggest Mass Shooting in U.S. History” flash across the television screen as I turned on the news was both confusing and terrifying. How could this happen? What was the motive? Who was involved? Above all else, the hardest thing to come to grips with was that something like this could happen in the place I call home. Orlando is by far the most accepting, loving, tight-knit community I’ve ever lived in. Everyone is considered family despite political affiliations, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or race. I can recall growing up there, feeling simultaneously lucky and stupefied that my school had no bullies, no cliques and no fights – we rooted for each other to succeed and supported one another during tough times.
In the wake of this tragic shooting at Pulse nightclub, it’s extraordinarily heartwarming to see that support spread worldwide as the victims’ family and friends, the LGBT community, and the city of Orlando begin to grieve. A ruthless act of hatred, which resulted in the loss of so many bright, vibrant, incredible people, will not define us or diminish our spirit.
Instead of responding to this attack with hate, violence or chaos, we will love, help and protect one another, embracing the good in spite of all the bad.
Because love conquers all.
Photo Credit: Andrew Dallos