When Tragedy Strikes

Orlando has had a tough week. There’s a general malaise right now around the city. It’s a mixture of shock and grief, and sadness, a lot of sadness – but I think mostly we’re just trying to make sense of the senseless. And come to terms with all the terrible things that have just happened in our own backyard.

 It is hard to accept tragedy.

I am a Florida native – an Orlando native to be exact – a rare breed.
I was born in the hospital where the shooting victims were taken last weekend. I gave birth to my children in that same hospital but in the building next door. The doctor who delivered my children was the son of the doctor who delivered me. My children are friends with the children of some of my high school classmates.

In spite of its sprawling and transient nature, Orlando can be a very small town.

If you’re from here, you shop at the Publix and you stop for ice cream at the Frozen Gold on your way to (and from) New Smyrna Beach because well, it’s what you do. When something bad happens, you bring a casserole. I’ll bet John Mina and his crew could use a casserole right about now.

When I left for college back in 1989, I swore I would never come back – yet, here I am.

Last week I was at the concert where Christina Grimmie was shot. I’m still wrestling with the idea that I had my kids within 10 feet of an armed gunman who was out to kill. I’m still wrestling with the fact that I had to sit my kids down the next morning to explain what happened at the club while we were most likely getting into our car. Only to sit them down the next morning to explain what had happened at the Pulse nightclub. That is too much explaining for this mama. By the time Tuesday rolled around, I couldn’t even process the death of the little boy out at Disney.

Just. No.

As a young girl, my grandfather taught me the importance of being aware of alligators. If there is water, we have to assume there might be an alligator in it. I’ve spent a good amount of time in and on the lakes in Central Florida. I’ve seen my fair share of alligators over the years. I know what to look for; I know what to do to be safe. My kids have dipped their toes in the waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon countless times. Even with all of my years of experience and knowing what I know. I would never have anticipated a situation like the one that happened this week.

Over the past seven days I have spent a lot of time listening; to individuals and the collective community.  Everyone has an opinion, a story, a person they knew. That is good – we need to process, we need to heal collectively and individually. If we’re being honest, most of us are probably trying to find control in the uncontrollable.

But mostly, it feels like we are coming together and rising up - as a people, as a city. I have seen leadership step into places I never knew them capable – I have seen communities come together – I have seen religious leaders put aside differences and focus solely on the hearts of the Orlando people. This is good – this is all very good.

The resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.

This week, I’ve seen hope, I’ve seen love, I’ve seen grace, and I’ve seen peace. This is a time for sorrow, yes but maybe it is also a time for tearing down some ideas and paradigms that don’t work anymore and shift to new ways of thinking and loving each other that might work better. As a community – as a nation.

Orlando is rising strong. This is something for which we should all be proud.