Once I became a man of a certain age, I realized that I’ve lived through a few shared life experiences that were tragic enough in nature, to warrant the statement, “I remember where, I was and what I was doing when…..”.
September eleventh, Michael Jackson’s death, and the OJ Simpson verdict all come to mind. Although these were major national occurrences that made headlines, none of them hit so painfully hard and personal than the fateful night at Pulse nightclub, June 12, 2016.
There were 49 souls who should have enjoyed an evening of friendship, music, dancing, and cocktails but instead, became a painful reminder that hate, and a basic lack of humanity is very much alive in the world we live in today.
This horrific act of homegrown terror fueled a fire within me to continue to live boldly and out front. I wanted to let the people closest to me know how much this dreadful night impacted me as a same gender loving man. I wanted straight people (particularly the ones I knew and loved) to be just as outraged as my community in addition to many other acts of violence that sadly, has become a way of life in America. I wanted this to be the one moment that for once, men who identified as gay (even if privately), would stand in solidarity in saying their names. Why? Because I knew, we all knew, that it could have been anyone of us.
We wanted their names to linger in our heads and hearts as if we were to be called to recite them on the spot at any given moment in time.
I wasn’t surprised that the response from the news of the Pulse Night Club shooting from the community (nationally and globally) and allies came swiftly. When it came to my own social media following of various ethnicities, faiths, and orientation however, the support or lack there of, was quite lackluster. That didn’t matter to me then and it doesn’t now. I knew that taking a stand of love and support for those who lost their lives meant me taking personal accountability and doing something! I went to the rally / vigil in NYC with both gay and straight friends. I was in the company of so many people who like myself, just couldn’t sit at home and watch CNN. We wanted to be there with likeminded souls. We wanted be seen and heard, more importantly, we wanted to say their names!
As the media began to take this story in a few directions, none of that mattered to me or to my friends. We just wanted the names of the beautiful people to roll off our tongues in unison on the streets of cities across the nation. We wanted their names to linger in our heads and hearts as if we were to be called to recite them on the spot at any given moment in time.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from living through the tragic news of Pulse nightclub is to be grateful. I am grateful, that I had refuge in similar places like Pulse where I could come into my own, see others like myself, and realize that I, like everyone else on the planet am enough! I am grateful that the survivors are here to be acknowledged for making it through a horror no one should ever have to endure. I am grateful that the names those beautiful 49 souls lost, all have a permanent place in not only my heart, but for so many others who recall that evening of June 12, 2016. I am grateful that we as a collective community, came together and that paid tribute to the victims and their families and vow to never forget the lives that were so violently cut short.
Say their names!