Reflecting back on the tragedy that hit our town on June 12, 2016.
My family, like many out there, is mourning and afraid of rifle-wielding men. Like mine, many families are supporting the Orlando community and to witness the love is eye opening and uplifting. However, not all families feel this as deep as we do. You see, I am a lesbian, I am a Latina, but that’s not all I am. I am also a mother to two beautiful girls and wife to an amazing woman. I am a loyal friend. I am a loving daughter. I am a family woman and my family is the LGBTQ community. While many feel a sense of loss and grief for our city, I feel, in MY bones, the wounds of my brothers and sisters who were injured and murdered in cold blood.
I woke up on Sunday (June 16, 2016) to calls and texts asking if we were safe. My daughters were worried, texting and seeking reassurance that their moms were home and not on a gurney or in a body bag. My heart broke when I saw our 12 year old’s text “Mommy, are you okay?” Text messages don’t convey tone, but I felt her panic. I sat there shaking, in disbelief. I couldn’t type or call fast enough, my brain wouldn’t allow it. I thank the Universe for the genius who created the Facebook safety check-in. I sat there, holding my breath, as I saw people I know checking in and wept for those who hadn’t – for hours.
We live Downtown, less than a mile from Pulse and most bars and clubs, and now I don’t feel safe, which is alien to me. I couldn’t attend the vigil and as I taught a yoga class, I wept on my mat for the dead and injured, I wept in fear of a second gunman driving by and spraying bullets all over my wife and friends who were there. Even so, I won’t let fear consume me anymore. I will hit the pavement in support of love, I will be part of human chain links to protect families and victims from protesters spewing hate, and I will not stop. I will use fear as fuel to drive me even more because I may be afraid of many things but I have never been afraid to love and I will not start now.
Thinking of Pulse breaks my heart; we have gathered there with friends, we have danced our butts off on that dance floor, we have laughed til it hurt on that very patio, soulmates have found each other there, and so much more. I look back on pictures of those happy times and every time I am left with such a gut wrenching feeling. I know every inch of that bathroom where so many hid and lost their lives, the fence many jumped and the DJ booth where my ex brother-in-law was working that night. It could have been me inside Pulse and while I don’t know the ones who perished, they are me. They are my community, they are my people.
What I want everyone to understand is this: Don’t see this as a “gay club shooting.” See it as what it truly is – a CLUB SHOOTING. These are not “gay” people, that is not just who they are. They are human beings and most importantly, they are LOVED. They are young lives that have been cut short; young lives that will live with pain none of us could ever imagine. The damage is done. There is no way to fix what has been irreparably broken. All we can do is stand together, without labels or prejudices; hold each other’s hands, make our hometown a safer place, and teach our children to love everyone. Time is passing us by. Let’s rise up and be better than ever. We are not defined by what happened, we are not the home of the biggest mass shooting. We have always been The City Beautiful and now we are The City Beautiful Full of Hope, Love and Resilience. Let’s rebuild the shattered bones of our hometown. Let’s dance freely on every dance floor and the only blood I want to see on our feet is from shoes that couldn’t handle our moves.