We heard about the shooting at the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning. As soon as we heard, we contacted loved ones to make sure everyone was okay. My sister gave us a call a little later in the morning to see if we had heard what happened in Orlando. We had heard and we couldn’t understand.
We live close to the University of Central Florida, just northeast of Orlando. Orlando is where we shop, go to the parks, eat out, and live life. To us, where we live just feels like a big small town. This whole area is made up of connected cities and towns, with the center being Orlando. Which is why we found ourselves downtown today.
When we arrived, people were already throughout the grounds at the Dr. Phillips Center, and the crowd was growing quickly. There was a memorial toward the front of the Dr. Phillips Center where everyone quietly laid flowers. As we wandered, people hugged, cried and held signs of support. Bottles of water and candles were passed around to the fast-growing gathering of people. It was easy to see that there were a lot of people here, but it didn’t feel crowded. What you could feel, was the love that seemed to touch everyone like a much needed gentle breeze on a hot summer night.
Speakers shared words of support and unity. The victims names were shared.
The church bells echoed from the buildings as they rang for each of the victims.
It wasn’t until we started leaving that I realized how many people were with us. I’d not seen that many people downtown before. And they all came to show love and support for the victims and their families, while also clinging to each other.
Before we went to the vigil I had felt gutted, crushed, that this had happened to the Pulse community taking the lives of 49 beautiful people. I was heart broken for the victims and their families. I still am.
During and after the vigil, I realized that all of us together, grieving for those lost and hanging on to each other with all the strength that we had, felt comforted in a very sobering way.