|Memorial at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, Monday & Friday (below)|
The Friday night news showed people there at midnight, with many candles burning.
This has been a week that will stick in our minds forever. Like where we were on 9/11. And to add to the grief and disbelief, the 49 who died at Pulse nightclub were not the only tragedies here in the last seven days.
Tragedy Number 1: Last Friday night, June 10, 2016, a man I can only describe as a "nutjob" drove from St. Petersburg, FL, to Orlando for the express purpose of killing singer, Christina Grimmie. And while she was signing autographs at the Plaza in East Orlando (where I have attended a number of performances, including those by family members), he did just that. He shot and killed her.
Tragedy Number 2: The killing of Christina Grimmie would have been the featured headline for several days, except on Saturday night (early Sunday morning), something worse occurred. Something so heinous, so inexplicable that we're still trying to plow our way through all the ramifications. But when I went to church on Sunday morning, I hadn't heard the news. Members of the choir passed along the information that "20" were known dead in a massacre at a nightclub. I asked, "Where?" and was totally shocked when the answer was, "Downtown."
Here? In Orlando? Yes, we knew Orlando, the resort capital of the world was a top target, but that meant the theme parks, sporting events at the Amway Center or the Citrus Bowl (now Camping World Stadium), not a gay nightclub in the heart of downtown Orlando. The attack truly came "out of the blue."
By the time church was over, the death toll was 50 - soon reduced to 49, as no one wanted to count the shooter. (Several days later the newspaper revealed that his body had been kept separate from the victims even in the morgue. Not because of any orders or protocol, but because it seemed the right thing to do.)
On Sunday afternoon people waited in lines four hours long to give blood. So many, in fact, that some were asked to come back in a month. All told, 3500 units of blood were donated. Police, fire,EMTs, doctors, nurses were all superb. And the 53 wounded were also aided by the fact that our number one regional trauma hospital was practically across the street. The media also deserve special mention. Local TV and newspapers did an incredible job, receiving many compliments for the way they handled the challenge. My favorite local TV station was "live" for around 20 hours from the time the news first broke, and The Orlando Sentinel has put out a special section every day this week, providing the many details that TV can't provide. It's safe to say that everyone involved stood up and met the challenge, and I'm proud to call this area home.
As detailed news reports began to come in later in the week, we learned that police went into that dark club, filled with bodies lying in blood, calling out, "Who's alive?" And dragged out everyone who answered, even while the shooter was barricaded in a bathroom, until the police used a tank to ram through a wall, shooting Omar Mateen while managing not to shoot the hostages he was holding there.
All in all, we are doing our best to remember not just the victims but all the heroes among the survivors and first responders. Most of us are doing our best not to remember the hateful man who shot 103 people. And yet . . .
On Wednesday of this week I attended a memorial service at my church here in Longwood, twenty miles north of downtown Orlando. The priest (Episcopal) delivered an emotional memorial - he actually cried, and then we took turns reading the names of the dead. There was music, including "Amazing Grace," and just as the service ended, the priest said, "I apologize for leaving out one name. Omar Mateen." All I can say for myself - and I expect for others as well - is that I admired him for practicing the forgiveness he preaches, but it was hard, really hard, to accept. I could only hope that hate-filled Mateen was aware that he was being remembered in a Christian, Protestant church service! And that if he weren't already dead, he'd choke on it!
On Thursday, President Obama and Vice-president Biden came to Orlando and spoke to all the relatives of the dead. They laid 49 white roses on the memorial that's sprung up on the grass in front of the Dr. Philips Performing Arts Center. The Florida governor, the Orange County mayor, and the Orlando mayor were also present. On the same day, the first funeral was held.
Tragedy Number 3: As if we hadn't had enough sorrow, on Sunday night, a two-year-old boy, Lane Graves from Nebraska, was wading in ankle-deep water in Disney's Seven Seas Lagoon when an alligator dragged him into the water and drowned him. His body wasn't found until the next day. This was a preventable accident. Disney is now posting alligator warning signs, which should have been in place since Disneyworld opened. Every Floridian knows not to go into fresh water in Florida at night. But people come here from all over the world who haven't the slightest idea that alligators live in every body of fresh water in Florida, and that they are most active at night when it's feeding time. So shame on Disney for not wanting to scare the tourists!
Although sorrow grips us for all for these tragic deaths, our heads are high, our determination strong. We embrace love, not hate. (Well, at least we hold our heads high and try not to return hate with hate, but I'm afraid most of us are having a hard time stifling the anger.) There's no doubt, however, that we remain
My apologies for my blog not being updated on schedule. Major computer problems kept me offline for the last two weeks. Hopefully, now resolved by a new computer, where we're very much in the first stages of getting to know each other! Hopefully, next week my semi-annual index to all my Writing & Editing blogs since 2011.
Thanks for stopping by.