I had a hunch something was up when I heard the constant hum of two helicopters during my morning run this morning. And then there was the black Tahoe that went speeding by me in the direction of the helicopters, its blue lights flashing. I first heard about it from my neighbors during my post run run with my little girls around the lake. And then I saw video footage from Pulse nightclub…right across from the Einstein’s Bagels I take my kids to for breakfast. And then more footage from Grant Street and Orange Ave, where my Target is, blocked off and full of people hoping to help or make sense of this in some way. City commissioners I know are on national TV, and the Police Chief I often read about in our local paper is giving updates on CNN. Talk of terror, ISIS, hate…and Orlando? There is blood on our sidewalks and our hospitals are on lockdown.
It’s cliche but there are no words. Why? It’s all so awful.
But that is not the Orlando I know. The Orlando I know has room for you whether you live in the city or on the edges of the city or outside of the city or from a different city. It welcomes you whether you came from subsidized housing in Brooklyn (before it was cool) or a comfortable Chicago suburb. Or whether you are from Georgia or England or Puerto Rico or Washington. You have a place here whether you are straight or gay or black or white or brown or purple or pink or green. Whether you are very religious or not at all or somewhere in the middle.
You belong here whether you are covered in Vineyard Vines or tattoos and piercings. Whether you get your food from Whole Foods or Walmart or Second Harvest or the community garden. Whether you are in College Park or Parramore or Thornton Park. You belong here and you are an important part of our community.
It’s cool if you were born here and have lived here as long as the giant oak trees that line our brick streets, but it’s also cool if you just moved here. We love when you bring a part of wherever you lived before to share with us here. Whether you are a Clemons Produce, Charlie’s Bakery or Lake Highland Preparatory School, or a Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, East End Market or Warrior One Yoga – there is room for you here. Orlando is Disney World and Universal and Sea World, and it’s the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, the Orlando Museum of Art, and Orlando City Soccer. It’s Chik-Fil-A, and 4Rivers and Tako Cheena and NOVA. It’s Starbucks and Credo and Infusion Tea and Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s fundraising walks around Lake Eola, Leu Gardens, 7-Eleven and craft breweries. There’s room here for everyone.
The Orlando I know is about neighbors gathering outside to make sure everyone is ok. The Orlando I know has had to close some of its blood donation centers for the day because so many people came out to donate blood that they ran out of supplies. The Orlando I know responded. And they responded right away in a coordinated way. The Orlando I know is a community that is proud of its city and the people in it. The Orlando I know is not perfect, but it will pull together and be bigger than the people who try to bring it and its people down.