I woke up to the news with my parents that there had been a shooting at a gay club in Orlando. We turned on the television and I started watching and feeling my insides churn. I went through the motions of church numb. I barely sang. I barely talked. When I left to get to church at 8:00am it was just at 20 people and my heart was already heavy. There was no mention of the attack at the 2 services I served as a deacon in, but I guess that’s how breaking news works. I couldn’t hear the sermon, I was lost in my thoughts.
At Sunday school I brought it up as a prayer request and as soon as I started talking my eyes started to fill with tears. I knew I was on the verge of breaking. Our discussion centered on “What is a Christian?” I sketched the discussion to do my best and stay focused on the moment.
Once I left church, I found the death toll of 50. It was now the worst attack since 9/11. It felt like my insides turned to glass and shattered.
My thoughts rested solely on those in Orlando. I went home for a nap, but instead ended up falling asleep to CNN about the attack. I woke up feeling worse, but determined to do something. My husband and I were going to get up and go be with our LGBT brothers/sisters today. They were the only people I could imagine being with at that moment.
For many that might not know, a gay bar is a sanctuary, and many gay men remember their first time walking into one. It’s like a little kid experiencing the Magic Kingdom for the first time. You can be yourself, your WHOLE self without fear of discrimination or shame. So we ended up at a gay bar that hosts one of my favorite events “Showtunes singalong”. There also happened to be a cookout that was already there for another group within the community. It was packed.
On the surface, you’d think it was just another awesome Sunday… but you could feel the air was thick with emotion. We chatted a little, sang a little, and there was this strong sense of love and community present. This was my church today. At 6pm, bars across the nation joined together for a moment of silence. One of the community leaders took to the microphone and started to speak about it and we all started openly grieving together. We claimed our strength of community, our love of each other, and traded many hugs (just like passing peace at church). We cried some more. Then we had our moment of silence.
Afterwards, we left there and went to the candlelight vigil being put on by some other community partners (including the Fairness Campaign, the Strange Fruit podcast team, and many other community leaders including our Mayor). We met at the base of the Big Four Bridge (our walking bridge) and had words, held hands/elbows, and marched in solidarity as a greater community to the center of the bridge where we met our Indiana brothers/sisters. We were lead in song by the Louisville Gay Men’s Chorus to “We shall overcome” and declared and decried that the acts will not silence us.
Through all of this my insides began the process of putting itself back into place. My heart is still broken. Orlando is still on my mind and will be for a long time, but I have no doubt we shall overcome. Louisville is a special community, and as we openly continue to grieve as we enter our own Pride week, I know this community is here for each other. We are all connected through our love, our human experience, and it’s what gives me hope for the future. We are Orlando. We are Orlando. Orlando is us. My thoughts and prayers to everyone in Orlando. We stand with you here in Louisville.