Two years ago today, Omar Mateen murdered 49 people and injured 58 more in a terrorist attack/hate crime on “Latin Night” inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It the second deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in United States history. 90% of the victims were of color.
In the middle of PRIDE Month, we lost 49 in our family. And 58 of ours will never be the same. The victims "went down where they were," Joshua D. Stephany, 41, told the New York Times. Some had clearly been paying bills, sipping drinks and eating food, based on the "surreal" scene he found inside the club Sunday morning. Strobe lights were still flashing, he told the paper.
We woke up hours after the news broke wrestling with how a massacre could happen in the middle of our sanctuary. We all remember morning walks with joy after a night on the dance floor with our chosen family who held us and hearts up to the heavens. The music was loud; the love was louder. It's horrific to imagine how the dance floor, a historical sanctuary turned into a contemporary nightmare for our comrades in Orlando. “Family members passed the time calling and calling their loved ones’ cell phones’. A law-enforcement official said the calls were ringing from the bodies throughout the grim crime scene. Some went direct to voicemail, as though they ran out of power.”
In a month meant to uplift and recognize queer contributions and the brilliance within our community, our collective consciousness was critically wounded. A year later, what next?
While remembering the tragedy’s darkness, we must proclaim the light. We must proclaim the love. Let us honor the memory of those lost but letting our hearts go deep today. So often we wait until the immediate window of a tragedy to inspire emotional depth but let us wait no longer. Love, family, and friendship is the beginning and the end of all that matters in life. Period. It is easy to be distracted from that understanding but let us focus our attention where it belongs today.
Let us focus on Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, a loving Mother of 11 children, who died shielding her gay son Isaiah from the gunfire. Let us honor Brenda Lee’s legacy by embodying her Pisces demonstration of unconditional love. Looking at the state of the world today, no orientation on human connection could heal us all than holding every socialization as a sacred experience. Experiencing everyone we meet like they're family. It’s not enough anymore to only extend love and kindness to only those who are nice to us. Imagine if each and every one of us developed a consciousness on connection where we understand, like Marianne Williamson asks, “How much more intimate could we be than realizing we are each other?”
Let us express love today without a massacre or heartbreak. Do what must be done to be instruments of peace in their honor. #HonorThemWithAction
You can start small in your own life. If we’re all connected, then humanity will feel your loving shifts in perception. And that's where you can be a part of the recovery. It's easy to feel helpless in the face of tragedy, but when spiritual seekers deeply understand how powerful our minds and hearts are when they're aligned in love, then we know how to contribute peace to the solution. We know how to be a harmonizing agent. We know how to actualize kindness, joy, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. We know that the love we offer to one person, we offer to all. The miraculous effects of us rising to that occasion is absolutely quantum.
Speak love to someone who needs to hear you say it today. Our task is to actively contribute love within the collective in a meaningful way. We can begin by offering forgiveness. I'm reminded of interviews I've seen with victims directly affected by genocide, murder, and other unfathomable experiences and when the journalists ask, "But don't you want revenge?", they uniformly answer, "Absolutely not. I don't want more pain and more anger. I want forgiveness and I want peace." That's the big game I want to play. I can't get rid of darkness with my fists. I can only get rid of the darkness by turning on the light.
On PRIDE, I will dance for everyone affected by this tragedy. I will dance for all my queer family members who cannot live their truth. I will dance for Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega who died shielding his sister. I dance for Isaiah whose Mother died loving him. On PRIDE, I will dance for miracles and I will dance for love.