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 the fire within me to continue to live boldly, and out front. I wanted to let the people closest to me know how much this fateful night impacted me as a same gender loving man. I wanted straight people (particularly the ones I know and love) to be just as outraged as we were with so 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 (especially 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 news of the tragedy 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 is enough! I am grateful that the survivors are here to remember, and be acknowledged for making it through a horror no one should ever have to endure. I am grateful that those beautiful 49 souls who names each have been spoken out of my mouth, all have a place in not only my heart, but those of so many who know that when they recall that evening of June 12, 2016, they can say, I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. I am grateful that we also remember what we did, and that we would pay tribute to the victims and their families for many years to come.
Say their names!