It has been forty-eight hours since tragedy struck Orlando, my home town, in the form of a hateful act of terror. I won’t spend any time recounting what I’ve learned from the news as I’m sure you’re well aware of what happened. I am just finally taking a moment to fully process the pain that my heart is feeling.
I became aware of what happened on Sunday morning right when I woke up. I read the news report that appeared on my news feed from NPR. I was in the middle of moving this past weekend to a new apartment and Sunday was the last day of my old lease. I still had a lot of work to do after having moved all of the big furniture the day before. I honestly didn’t have the time or opportunity to process the news I was receiving because I had to finish the task ahead of me in a timely manner; I only had time to cry. I woke up, read the news, and just cried. Interestingly enough, my roommate and I had a very good friend of ours visiting us from San Francisco. He just so happens to be gay. He came down for vacation and he took some time out of his busy schedule to help us move. What a great friend! He woke me up in the morning after having spent the night on our couch and he was the first person I spoke to, all teary eyed and congested. I needed the hug he gave me before he left to go back home. I then promptly went back to my old apartment to finish moving what was left of my stuff. I picked up my roommate, who just so happens to be Muslim, after he returned the U-HAUL and he was the second person I spoke to and informed of what happened. I needed his comfort as well. Needless to say, I stand in solidarity with both communities, whom constantly experience heavy discrimination.
After alternating between moving boxes and shedding tears in the bathroom, I’m now trying to find words to express how I feel. Usually I’m pretty quick at coming up with words, but not this time. Sadness is a given. Anyone with a heart should be sad and grieving. I can’t even begin to imagine what this is like for the families and friends of the victims. I wish I could be in my hometown right now to join the movement of unity and support.
Attacks like this affect so many people, from the victims’ families to first responders, to even the people who pick up the phone when you call 911. I have a good friend who does that very difficult job and she shared with me the experiences her co-workers had. Having to hear the distress, gunshots, screams, tears, voices of people right before they’re silenced; all the while not being able to directly do anything — Just keep being there, picking up the phone. My friend told me that it’s not uncommon for these brave workers to experience PTSD or severe emotional trauma after something like this. To be honest, I had never really thought about that before she told me. Add them to your prayers, along with all the other first responders and medical staff taking care of the injured.
But now, two days later, I’m livid. I’m so angry at the injustice. I’m angry at the prevalence of hatred. I’m angry at ignorance. I’m angry at intolerance. I’m angry at our current political climate. I’m angry that change, if any, is unjustifiably slow. I’m angry at the gun lobby. I’m angry that identifying and attacking the root cause of hate gets neglected. I’m angry that Donald Trump had the audacity to utter the words that came out of his mouth after the shooting. I’m angry that love is still not the default version of humanity.
We are a reactive people at best. Why is this what it takes? Why does it take a mass shooting for the Florida Attorney General to finally show any kind of support for the Florida LGBT community? Why do people have to die for Chick-Fil-A to make a positive statement? How many more shootings is it going to take for us to realize we have a gun problem? How much more hate do we need to fall victim to in order to realize that we have a mental health problem? How many times do I have to send an email to my congress person before it becomes clear that those who have the gold make the rules? THAT’S THE WRONG GOLDEN RULE.
I am holding onto this anger. I have anger in my prayers, and God totally understands. I’m using it as fuel to not give up fighting. I will use my voice. I will use my hands and feet. I will use my mind. I will use my time. I will use my vote. I will use my money. I will use social media. I will continue to fight for justice and change with unstoppable rage and I will NEVER use a gun. The last thing anyone should be doing right now, with all of the tools available to us, is nothing.
On the flip side, I am inspired by my city beautiful. I’m inspired by the long lines in Florida heat to give blood to rescue the injured. I’m inspired by the umbrellas, and water, and food given out for free to keep the effort going. I’m inspired by the nearly 4 million dollars raised in support of the victims. I’m inspired by Muslims giving blood while fasting for Ramadan. I’m inspired by the vigils held for the victims to honor them. I find hope in the Orlando community unifying to show what love looks like and what love is capable of. We far outnumber those who do evil, let’s continue to show it. Let’s continue to serve our communities, especially the disenfranchised. Let’s continue to speak out, especially for the marginalized who don’t have a voice. Let’s not wait another second to show our country, our government, and the world what a free society of humans is supposed to look like. Let’s refuse to believe that love is not enough. Love is a verb.
If you would like to take action and donate for the victims, here’s a link:
If you would like to contact your congress person and share your thoughts about ways to fight this violence through legislation, here’s a link:
Finally, to the LGBT community, the Hispanic community, and the Muslim community, my heart is with you, my voice is with you, I stand with you. To my family in Orlando (this includes my friends because you’re all family), I love you so much. You’re a part of who I am and I appreciate you. You’re in my thoughts and prayers and I miss you. I can’t wait to go home and embrace you again.
Mami, Papi, Julian — Los amo con todo el corazon que me han enseñado usar.
“…And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside…” — Lin-Manuel Miranda.