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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Two Days After (Pulse Reflections)

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In the light of the Manchester bombing, I’ve decided to continue posting my initial reactions from the Pulse attack. As a city, we are approaching the one year anniversary of the Pulse massacre. I can hardly believe it’s been a year since 49 lives were taken from us in an act of hatred. However, I believe it’s important to discuss the pain, devastation and eventual healing that comes from being a witness to such an event. My hope is that sharing these thoughts will continue to foster empathy and connection. Until we connect with our fellow humans, of all races, creed, colors, political affiliations and ages, we will continue to experience tragedies like the Pulse shooting and the Manchester bombing.

It’s up to us to connect to one another with love, kindness and understanding.

As a resident of Orlando and a Leeds Lass, I stand with you Manchester. You are not alone, and you will see a brighter day. I promise.

 

Two Days After

I feel lost. As though I want to sink into a hole and stay there. I feel guilty for feeling this way as none of my friends were hurt or injured in the attack. Meanwhile 49 families have spent the last two days experiencing a pain so severe I cannot imagine. They’ve felt their world shatter as the name of their loved one appeared on that list.

I’ve been lucky enough to not go through that horror, but I can’t shake the feeling that I could have been there. I can’t stop seeing my memories of Pulse play over and over again in my head. I can see that stage, the dancers, that tiny hallway that led to the bathroom as music vibrated through my chest. Then I see the bathroom, with its sign saying ‘only one person in a stall at a time.’ I think about the female bathroom. My brain focuses on how that space was a sanctuary of calm between the crazy spurts of sweat, dance and drink.

I think about the victims crammed in a space that I had found respite in many times – a place where they were held hostage – where they waited to die – where they texted their families messages of love – and my heart splinters into irreparable pieces.

I’m angry. I’m furious that this atrocity of a thing happened in my backyard. But more than that I’m angry that it happened in one of the environments I’m the happiest. When I dance and drink in clubs with lights illuminating a concoction of faces and sweat sticking to my skin I feel the most like me. I feel free, confident and dare I say, joyful. And to think that in a moment like that, in seconds of pure free existence, lives that loved those moments the same way I do were taken is unfathomable to me.

God, then I focus on how brave they were. They had the courage to be themselves and to love who they wanted to love. Beyond that they were in a place that accepted them completely. And when I think of how their lives were taken, in the most cowardly way, in a place where they were brave and felt at home, I can’t breathe.

I can’t accept it. I can’t know that you can be killed for being courageous enough to be fully you – because if courage, honesty and love is met with death, how am I supposed to believe in a good world?