Since 2001, our perspective on the world has changed. Previously we could board planes, go to the theater and attend church without a care in the world. But world events and the threat of terrorism has definitely changed that. Now everyone must be hyper-vigilant of their surroundings. We no longer have the carefree attitude of times past. Anything that seems out of place is met with a watchful eye.
It has been a little more than 24 hours since the shooting of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Countless men and women, who wanted to spend the night in fun revelry, left emotionally and physically scarred. The outpouring of grief and a community coming together touched many across the world. When the blood banks called out for donations, people lined around the blocks and corners. Some even turned away because the supplies were full. People came out with water, food and support. It was the true meaning of the word community.
So what creates a sense of community? Why have numerous people with no connection to the victims, spent part of their weekend mourning, volunteering and supporting each other? In times of tragedy, we often put ourselves in the shoes of those affected. The first thought often turns to “that could’ve been me!” I, for one, had those same thoughts running through my head. I am not gay but I’ve been an ally for many years. (My twenties were spent with my gay best friend closing down the gay clubs of Chicago on the weekends.) For many people in the gay community, clubs offer a respite from the outside world. It is a chance to truly be yourself without the judging eyes of the outside world. More than sex and music, it is gathering place and community center.
The attack on the nightclub was an attack on everyone. It does not matter if you are gay or straight; it attacked our sense of community. We all want to belong. We all want to feel safe. Events such as this rocks everyone to the core. It reminds us how fragile life is and how it can be taken away in a blink of an eye. But we as a people cannot let this define us. Tragedy often cannot be prevented but we can show solidarity in the days and months afterwards. So what to do?
For one, we must celebrate every day of life. You cannot hide in fear of the “what ifs?” Letting the unknown gain control will let many moments of life pass you by. Once fear grabs ahold of you, it rarely lets go. While it is more comfortable to stay sheltered, it is detrimental to live inside your own box. Becoming more active in your surrounding community. It is heroic that people are reaching out now but remember the effects of a tragedy of this will last long after the news crews have left for the day. Finally and most importantly; hug your friends and love life. Don’t let fear and hate win.
Photos courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel