With a tragedy like the senseless shooting in Orlando this past weekend, passionate emotions inevitably take hold of the community. Sadness, grief, shock and anger evolve into knee-jerk reactions and a lot of hate. Everyone becomes a so-called expert in dissecting the unexplainable. We cling to our pet theories and ideas of what caused such atrocities. We become divided. Our thoughts become politicized. Our compassion for the victims quickly dissipates, and we, in the end, lose what it means to be human.
Not all of us.
I strolled down to Orlando today to try to get a sense of the feeling there. The blocks surrounding Pulse nightclub, where the shooting took place, were closed off. The media saturated the streets. I parked and walked over to where a crowd gathered. It was mostly young people, hipsters and curious folks like myself. There was a young girl with a red striped shirt holding a rainbow colored “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. “Make America Great Again” plastered the red hats in the crowd.
I asked someone what was going on. A young man told me they were waiting for the great Milo Yiannopoulos. He said “Milo is a rockstar in the media world. He’s a British journalist, a controversial conservative, and pro-Trump. He also happens to be gay. He’s going to give a speech speaking out against of Islam.”
Milo arrived in a suit to thunderous “Build that Wall” chants. He hopped out of his white suburban, gave a quick wave, walked to the front and started speaking. It was mostly on how Muslims hate gay people, the media is full of lies and gun-free zones are “safe spaces” for killers.
It was hot and I couldn’t hear too well so I walked on.
What I saw throughout the city utterly amazed me. It was incredible.
I saw old people standing on corners in the scorching sun for no other reason than to tell people who walked by to “have a blessed day.”
I saw men with holes in their shoes walking around offering people water from a cooler they were hauling behind them.
I saw this gentleman (above) walk slowly up to the memorial at the hospital, stand there in silence for a minute and then set flowers down. He wiped away a tear and walked off slowly by himself.
I saw people who were taking time out of their lives to help the family members of the victims.
It was an awesome thing.
Even though Orlando was hit with such an unimaginably heinous act, our spirits were up. People were alive. The blocks were packed with people willing to do anything the community needed. They’ve looked past the politics, the divisiveness, the hate, and have generously offered an unbelievable amount of help and assistance.
These are the folks who bring light into the darkness. These are the folks who change the world. These are the folks we should aim to be.