There aren't any words

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 7:17 PM | comments: 0

I got up kind of late Sunday, because Diana was out late after work, and I have a hard time sleeping when she's out without me. When I did get up, Simon was already up, and I was surprised to see a notification on my phone that I had never seen before. It was a friend using Facebook's Safety Check. Knowing how it has primarily been activated only for natural disasters and serious terrorist attacks, I wondered why it would be activated here. I don't have to tell you what happened.

It was a few hours before I saw all of the names I was looking for, and that was about the time that the victim count went from 20 to 49. The feeling of relief was only that the proximity of the murders at Pulse didn't include anyone I knew, but it didn't take that long to find that it did include friends and coworkers of friends.

For much of the day, we were checking in on TV to see what was going on, which led to some difficult conversations with Simon. How do you explain something like this to a 6-year-old? That Mr. Rogers quote (assuming it's real) about looking for the people who help in a crisis was the angle we played. I told him that someone went to hurt a lot of people, and the police and ambulance workers all were there to help. Then I tried to explain donating blood, and that was a wholly ineffective conversation.

While 9/11 did result in the loss of my job at the time, I admit that for the most part I could compartmentalize the event and keep it at arm's length. The proximity of this event is too close to do that. Diana was out almost until 2 that night, and one of her coworkers considered going to Pulse instead of out with them. We both work 1.4 miles down Orange Ave. My best friend works three blocks from the club, and we've had lunch at the Chipotle across the street countless times. There are no shortage of people, friends and coworkers, that are part of the LGBT and Latino communities. We might be Orlando transplants, but this is where we live our lives.

I didn't have any words, and I spent much of Sunday just kind of doing nothing. Monday had me fully engaged at work, though I did reach out to a friend to figure out where we (my employer) could direct a substantial donation for victim relief. Today I spent some time at the arts plaza to see some of the tributes, notes, signs and photos left there. There were hand-written notes to specific people that are no longer with us. I still don't have any words. I feel like I should be doing something other than making donations, but I don't know where to start.

The community response has been breathtaking. The unity of the city, safety forces, hospitals, advocacy groups, religious communities and various charities has been extraordinary. Equality Florida's victim fund is in the millions now, and Strengthen Orlando's OneOrlando Fund has been seeded with $1 million from Disney. I know the rest of the outside world is already content to talk about politics, but the local focus is about everyone taking care of each other. I wish we could bottle that and keep it long-term, and spread it around the world. It seems that it takes the worst of humanity to bring out its best at times.

Words can't reconcile something this terrible. All we can do is hug each other and look out for each other. We can work on fixing stuff later.


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