In just 48 hours, two senseless acts of violence struck my hometown of Orlando, Florida. Within four miles of my old high school, in the heart of the city that has helped mold me, many innocent lives were tragically and unjustly lost.
On Saturday afternoon, I learned about the death of singer Christina Grimmie—The Voice Season 6 contestant—who was gunned down while signing autographs after her Friday night concert in Orlando. A deranged fan targeted the 22-year-old singer and took her life, before turning the gun on himself.
The news struck a deep chord with me. Someone— so young and talented, with so much promise and passion, who genuinely and sincerely brought so much light to this world— was unfairly stripped of it all by a senseless coward. No one could’ve ever anticipated something like this. It all weighed heavy on my mind and heart the entire evening.
The next morning, I woke up to several text messages and even more gut-wrenching news. Overnight, a gunman had opened fire on Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando. The shooter pledged his allegiance to ISIS and proceeded to shoot his hostages down with his automatic assault weapon, until eventually, officials were able to gun him down.
On Sunday morning, 20 people had been pronounced dead and the number of casualties was only expected to tick higher and higher. By the end of the day, at least 49 were reported dead and 53 were reported injured.
A city rooted in love and magic became the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in US history and fell victim to the harsh realities of this weird world.
Unfortunately, we’ve heard these horrific stories before. Stories like these are terrifying, heartbreaking and unfathomable to begin with, but even more so when they take place in your own backyard.
These attacks will be central to so many future conversations, discussions and agendas surrounding gun violence, mental illness, gay rights, terrorism, religion and much more. So I’m not going to sit here and play politics or mull over the 2nd amendment, but instead I’m going mourn the innocent lives that were lost. Ultimately, these attacks on humanity are sobering reminders of the darkness present on this planet.
Because nothing could have predicted that the beautiful young artist bringing people together through her music, or the hundreds of people going out to celebrate life on a Saturday, would have their lives mowed down on these two fateful June nights.
Because the sobering truth is that these attacks could have happened to anyone, anywhere.
Because my mind keeps going back to the victims— the plans, dreams and futures abruptly ended; the families and loved ones whose lives will never be the same; the souls who were attacked in a place they felt safe.
I only hope these grave thoughts will help me be more patient and understanding of everyone I cross paths with. I hope these thoughts encourage me to practice kindness and compassion. Not just today, but always.
In the hours following the massacre, my faith in human compassion was reaffirmed. A nurse I know working at the hospital was telling me that one of the victims went through 91 units of blood alone. With so many victims, blood banks inevitably went into crisis mode. This urgent need for blood was met by swarms of donors, lining the outside of donation centers and waiting hours under the 95-degree sun, eager to offer a share of their very essence to those in need.
Others—perhaps not able to donate blood—donated money to nonprofits aiding the victims and their families. Equality Florida, a reliable organization, raised over $1,200,000 in just 16 hours on their GoFundMe page.
People, both near and far, donated everything from food, water and services to sunblock, towels and time. A California hospital— located an entire coast away—ordered over 50 boxes of pizzas that were delivered to the hustling hospital. These may seem like small gestures in the grand scheme of things, but one must see how potent a genuine act of compassion is to a community whose hearts have been shattered.
This is who we are. We are Orlando. We must all put our differences aside and stand together as one society — today and always.
Time and time again, history has proven that the greatest act of bravery is love. Love can heal. Love can bind a community together with strength. Love welcomes all with open arms. Love is resilient. When hate and chaos strike, love provides the power to overcome.
Make sure to hold your loved ones close today.
Pray for those who won’t be able to.
Pray for those in hospital beds fighting for survival.
Pray for those who are still unaccounted for.
Pray for the first-responders, officers, doctors, nurses, caretakers and investigators.
Pray for love and support for the LGBTQ community.
Pray for the community of Orlando.
Pray for our humanity.
Pray for peace and light in this world— vigilantly and ceaselessly. Today and always.
But don’t just stop there; follow those thoughts and prayers with actions. It’s time to walk the talk because in the end, what we do is what matters.
Will one good deed singlehandedly mend the world of all its problems? Probably not.
But any breathing human being—with a body, a voice and a will—is capable of making positive contributions for the greater good. Our contributions combined can be the catalyst for change.
Believe in kindness and its potency.
Trust that even the smallest act of kindness can ignite a spark of positivity.
Reach out to those who are different from you and accept them for them.
Practice love and let it spread like wildfire.
Be of service and watch it change someone’s world.
Hush intolerance and ignorance and instead uphold civility, humility and humanity.
Be the reason someone believes that people are good and loving.
Be that someone— today and always.
Orlando’s bustling heart embraces diversity and pulses with a strong sense of community. As I sit here in my home, I find there is no simple way to make sense of what occurred in Orlando this past weekend. But I know that words of love and support are often louder than words of bigotry and hate.
As a resident of the city beautiful, an American and a human being: I love you, Orlando. Today and always.