Monday, June 13, 2016
You must be aware of the horror by now. On Saturday night around 2am, a gunman shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 more people at Pulse Night club in Orlando. This is the largest single gunman terrorist attack in the history of the United States. This morning, I woke up and the first thing I did was search the Internet for the names of victims. Though none of the names were familiar, I was in tears. Through out the day friends and family from around the country checked in to see if I was alright. I had sketched events at Pulse five times before, so I am familiar with the venue.
At dusk, there was a vigil at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. I wondered how tight security might be. At security check points my art supplies are often suspect. I was pleased that the were no fences or barricades. The crowd was huge and growing. I decided to stop when I saw this large sheet of construction paper for memorial wishes. People knelled down to write and draw messages of hope love and pride. Half way down the scroll, a young girl was writing a message. She was interrupted by a friend who spoke to her. I saw her face contort in pain and sorrow as he spoke. Clearly she had lost a loved one. She hugged her friend for longest time and cried on his shoulder. My heart broke.
On stage, names of the victims were being read out loud. the list went on forever. A woman to my left was sobbing and I had to stop sketching to clear my eyes. I was thankful when another announcer suggested we hug the person beside us. I hugged the man beside me. A quote from Martin Luther King rang true... "Darkness cannot drive out hate; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." I picked up a stray crayon and used it on my sketch. Can creativity really comfort or heal? People wandered the crowd handing out snacks and water. Like a funeral, food is thought to bring comfort.
The little town where tourist dreams come true was center stage for a nightmare. There is no pixie dust that can heal such a tragedy. I don't understand love in the face of sorrow, hope in the face of pointless violence. Speakers called for strict gun control but legislation is never passed. The ever powerful social media sites don't have an automatic message to let you know a friend has been shot dead. We all face our certain demise. Yet that field was full of love and community support. Someone complimented my sketch and I choked up in response. Such kindness despite everything. The gravity and scope of what happened washed over me fully for the first time.