One Week Later (Pulse Reflections)

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As I write this my home country, England, is reeling for another terrorist attack. It was a little over two weeks ago that 22 people lost their lives in Manchester, an a little over a month ago that 3 people were killed in a similar incident on Westminster Bridge. Repeatedly in my life it seems like my two homes seem to mirror each other, and it’s heart wrenching that almost a year after Pulse England would be going through that sort of atrocity. I could go into politics and thoughts about why this is happening, but I’ll keep it simple. All of this stems from hate and fear. The only way to combat that is through love and forgiveness – as incredibly torturous as that feels.

So my dear beloved England, the country that raised me and will also be my home – please love and forgive. Take your time to scream, cry, and grieve, but I promise you the only way to be whole again is to learn to love and forgive. I will not lie and say that I have wholly forgiven. Omar Mateen will always be a villain to me, but I refuse to let his hate and fear infect my community or myself.

I will be praying for you my dear England, with all I have. You are my heart, and I know during this time of what seems to be constant attack you will let your English spirit rise and take care of one another. I have no doubt you will see a better day. I love you.

In that sentiment, I have three posts left in regards to Pulse – this one, 6 months on and 1 year on. That’s how long it’s taken to feel okay, but the wound never truly heals. You just learn to accept it as part of your anatomy.

 

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Yesterday I stood with 50,000 members of my community around Lake Eola, the heart of our city. We raised candles in honour of the dead, and the sight of those candles flickering around the lake was maybe one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I will not easily forget that sight.

However, today the US Senate blocked a bill that would prevent people of the terror watch list (like Omar Mateen) from buying guns. Why? Because lobbyists, and the NRA and the second amendment. As I drove home today, listening to the news on NPR, I thought about all the memorials around town. The photos of the dead filtered into my mind as well as the families and friends I saw crumple to the ground in crying heaps at the crisis center across from my apartment building as they read the name of their loved one on that fateful list.

I couldn’t tear the image of them weeping from my mind. I remembered my own tears as I collapsed in the shower the day after. I wept as I thought about the innocent blood shed and how, just four walls from my apartment those family members were having their hearts ripped out and for what?

Because one man hated the gay community so much that he thought it was his duty to kill as many as he could. And today, today I think about how all of this could happen again so easily in another part of the country because of this government. After all, didn’t we say enough after Sandy Hook? We all mourned, cried, and said our prayers were with those parents only to do nothing to actually stop another massacre happen and then it came to my city.

It’s disgusting. And then these politicians, like Marco Rubio, will be sure to visit the memorials to say their ‘prayers’ are with us yet they block bills that could prevent these horrors. So now another city, another community could go through this and that knowledge devastates me.

 

 

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The Days After: Reflecting on Pulse

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In five days we will have elected a new president, I’ll keep my thoughts on that for another post, but as we move this country in one political direction or another I believe we have to seriously consider the gun violence in this country. This summer, almost six months ago, I was in Quebec City, Quebec (CA) with my big brother. We had been in Canada for a week to have a holiday and to see Mumford and Sons. At 6 am on Sunday June 12th I woke up in a hostel in Quebec to my sister (who was in Orlando) messaging me telling me to make sure everyone I knew that went to Pulse was safe. Pulse was a place I frequented and had been many times with friends. I spent the next hours watching my city on the news and frantically trying to make sure everyone I knew was okay. To see my city, to see Pulse (which is only a few blocks away from my apartment) in total terror was an experience that will never leave me. I couldn’t comprehend that my home was now the site of the worst mass shooting in U.S history, but it was happening whether I could comprehend it or not.

So, as the days progressed I kept a journal. I’ve been wanting to share this with the world for some time now, but have managed to keep putting it off. I will be posting what I wrote over the next few days, partly I suppose as therapy for me, but more so as a glimpse into the emotion that comes from such a tragedy and how it feels to have your city ripped apart. I think as we move forward it’s important to realize what one man with an assault weapon can do and if we, as a nation, have the guts to stand up to the NRA etc. and make a change. I hope this series allows you to reflect, but beyond that I hope it keeps the memory of the 49 alive.

I’m going to begin with something I wrote a couple of days before while sitting in Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal. I’m including this to show how quickly life can change.

 

Notre-Dame

Sometimes there are places that are too beautiful for words – places that have been cast in hours of toil, worship and artistry.

I’ve never understand the need for ornate places to worship God.

Perhaps, it’s because I’ve always found him in the small quiet spaces in the back of my mind; not in grand halls where pious men felt the need to show their wealth and stature, to show how holy they are simply by the act of building something physically beautiful.

However, as much as I detest these men, as much as I wish they would have never existed, I cannot help but have a touch of thankfulness for them.

For, if they never existed places like this would never be.

And if they never existed, I could never sit here, in a smooth oak pew, looking up at a divine altar carved from one tree, with the colors of a night sky bleeding out behind it, feeling the weight of hundreds of years of worship in one quiet moment.

This is the legacy of places like this, but this one, yes this one, is just a little more beautiful than the rest.