Picture credit: Wikipedia
A week ago, our world changed in Orlando forever and it has taken this long to be able to write about what has happened here.
Words of love and hope have come to Orlando from all over the World, but for those who live here, we are all still mostly numb.
It is all still surreal.
Many of you know that I came here from California and have found adjusting to the vast cultural differences between the two states, quite difficult.
One of the most glaring differences for me personally between the two places, was in the way those of the Gay Community are viewed and treated here.
California, my home for over 30 years, has an admirable level of acceptance and respect for the LGBT/Gay community.
My very best friend at Piedmont Airlines was gay and we spent many wonderful hours together, both at and away from work, admiring, and relishing the tremendous Art Culture of Los Angeles.
I had never known anyone like him and when I left LAX, I missed him so very much.
Many of my friends in LA were Gay, even though I was not.
It was not a choice, it was more like a connection of hearts, spirits and souls that brought us together.
Coming here in 2004 and traveling around Central Florida was so different from LA, as the Gay Community here did not seem to have a well defined presence, nor much acceptance.
What happened last Saturday night was the stark reality of evil and hate for the 49 victims whose lives were taken.
For those who were left behind to try to deal with it, it was a cold, bitter truth we were unable to accept or explain, for me, and as of last night, apparently 50,000 others here.
A Candlelight vigil was held at Lake Eola just as night came and the crowd had been expected to be around 25,000, the News said this morning.
But love, comforting, and acceptance came from everywhere here last night and if this is any indication of what can and should happen from this point on, things just may be changing for Orlando’s Gay Community, at last.
We drove down to Orlando yesterday right after eating breakfast in Mount Dora and walked around the Lake.
The feeling was wonderful, everyone seemed happy to be there and the sense of kindness was palpable.
Disappointingly, we found not one person there who had any of the beautiful flags, shirts, or other things made to honor those who had lost their lives, which we both found shocking.
The night before we had watched the Lions Soccer game and it seemed every single person there was wearing a shirt with words of hope, inspiration and love for the victims.
But on this day, one week after the horror, not one thing could be found around the Lake Park, or at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, where just days before, President Obama and Vice President Biden had laid 49 white roses to remember the victims, at a Memorial that has now grown into a massive place of love and outpouring of affection for those who were lost.
Being there, seeing it, feeling it, was completely overwhelming.
A reporter was there from one of our local channels, filming the visitors and I went up to her and lamented my sadness at not being able to find a single thing to take/bring home to honor the victims.
She said that the rainbow pin she was wearing had been given to her the day before and sadly, she only had one left to give away.
She gave it to me.
I was overcome with emotion and joy.
Then she asked me if I would talk about what I was feeling.
I was like old faithful, gushing out all of the sadness, anger, and pain from the past 12 years of seeing so little acceptance, support or love for a community that had meant so much to me in California, and that I felt was treated shamefully here by too many.
Yes, I made a fool out of myself.
We left a bit later and all night I was sad until this morning, when the News came on with a sight that made me so joyful.
You see, 50,000 people had shown up for the vigil last night at Lake Eola to say:
we care for you, we feel your pain, we love you.
No judgement, no negativity, just pure love for those whose lives had been taken a week ago in a brutal, senseless act of hate.
Day after day on the News, familiar phrases have become the mantra for all who grieve with the families and survivors:
We are hurting. We are broken. We will prevail.
Love, not Hate.
And for me personally, Gandhi’s words ring in my head:
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” – – Gandhi
And so, last night as the vigil began, these three words, which now define us and what happened, were chanted by the massive crowd there:
Peace, Love, Pulse.