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I Love You, Orlando.

Attempting to somehow artfully describe what took place in my city on Sunday morning is a fruitless endeavor. The response is visceral and jarring. The idea that 49 of my fellow Orlandoans were brutally gunned down by a depraved coward is not one that I can currently reconcile. I’m at a loss for words—I’m at a loss for the place I call home.

Orlando, a global destination for fun, family and fellowship, has had her innocence ripped away. The LGBT community, one of inclusion and support and camaraderie has experienced a crushing and horrific trauma. There are the clichés and banalities about “Never truly understanding until it happens in your backyard” or “This type of thing doesn’t happen here” that get tossed around.

But it did happen here. It happened in a thriving part of downtown Orlando. A place full of cafes and eateries, small shops and family-owned businesses. It happened mere blocks from my old house.

While this community—my community—will take time to heal, it’s immensely important to note the immediate, positive responses from the people of Orlando. The heroic first responders who saved countless lives in spite of the direct risk to their own. The citizenry flocking in droves to the local blood center to donate blood and supplies. Those individuals sitting with complete strangers, comforting them in their time of unimaginable grief.

This is the Orlando I know—resilient, caring, hopeful, strong—not the victims that this madman has sought to define us as.

To the victims and their friends and family: We stand with you. We grieve with you. Our hearts break for you. We are all Orlandoans, and no effort to divide us will ever prove successful. We live in one of the most beautifully diverse states in the country, and, together, we will emerge from this tragedy stronger than before.

Please, keep your thoughts and prayers with all of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting:

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old



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