I should begin this post by stating that Orlando, Florida is my hometown. I rarely share it, I rarely talk about it, because I believe in being a local of the globe, but today and as I write this I am compelled to tell everyone that when I dream about “home” I see Orlando. Last year I had to send multiple messages to some of my most beloved best friends all over the world. I had to check how my friends in Louisiana were doing after a movie theatre attack, I had to write my Thai friends and make sure they were okay after an attack in a mall downtown in Bangkok. Then of course there were my lovely Parisian friends, I had to ask them how they were doing, I was afraid they wouldn’t answer back. I had to ask people not only in the U.S. but all over the world if they were still there, if I would still see their updates, their instagram posts, if I would have the honour of seeing them again someday. This broke my heart, and made me miserably afraid of what the world was turning into. This week though, tables turned, and people have been sending me supportive messages. Suddenly I’m on the otherside of the tragedy and everyone is asking me if I knew anyone that could have been hurt, if everyone I know is okay… it’s something that has left me quite numb.
I’d like to quote an incredibly insightful friend I have who said the following: “It’s like Disney-town lost its innocence” and indeed, that’s exactly how it feels. Orlando is a place you go to forget that the outside world exists, and even though it was difficult for me to live there, it was a shelter of sorts. It was the kind of place you watched the news from and felt you were protected because “none of that is happening” where you were. Not anymore, today, this week, Orlando has become another place which the world is watching in dismay, in shock, in tears, and wondering when all of this will end. Another friend stated that she just can’t understand… and how could she? How could any of us? Hatred has no reasoning, it has no logic, it has no respect nor boundaries. Hatred is pure evil, it is the root of every bad thing in this world. It is the thing which makes us view people as flags, as skin colours, as religious beliefs, as their orientation, even as their bodies and not as what they are -people. Sometimes I wish we could take down all of our flags, our nationalities, everything, and just admit that when one person dies we all die in some way. I don’t care to know what any of those people believed in when tragedy like this strikes, I just remember how many people believed in them. How many people were waiting for them to get home, to continue with their lives and be a part of theirs. Today I’ve lost my appetite, and I have thought so much about everything. I have closed my eyes and envisioned the traffic in I-4, the way the old Downtown Disney looked (now Disney Springs) I thought about Winter Park Avenue, and The Mall at Millennia. I thought about going mini-golfing with my family on International Drive. I thought about the small towns that are completely different from the city. I thought about the enormous Latin community, and how sometimes you feel like you’re in Puerto Rico when you’re there. I thought about the things I never missed when I was there, the sweltering heat in the summer, the crazy humidity that makes you feel like you’re breathing in water as you rush through masses of tourists in a Disney park. I thought about the endless options of restaurants and places to go to, the lazer tag, that one Wonderworks building that’s upside down. I thought about the many colourful apartment complexes, and Celebration… that town that reminds you of the film Pleasantville. I remembered the friendly faces at the restaurants, the bars, the museums, all of the places where you get greeted with this over-the-top enthusiasm only Orlando natives know how to give. I thought about how many artists, poets, writers, musicians live there, and try to make it big. I thought about the fashion magazine I used to work for there, and how they worked hard to bring more fashion knowledge to the city. I sat an ocean away looking out into the streets of Valencia, Spain and thought about a city which I will admit I never quite got along with.
I never belonged in Orlando, but somehow, today Orlando belongs to me. The pain of having to see all of this take place, and know that just as my friend has stated, the innoncence has been robbed from my city, and that makes it my city. There’s not much else I can add to this other than the gratefulness I have that those I hold dearest are okay, and that even though I suffer through this alone on the other side of the world things are going to be okay. They won’t be how they were, but they will be okay. Sometimes when tragedy strikes, people always get angry at those like me who believe in a God, who believe that God still loves us all. But I ask of you, don’t be angry, don’t feed to the hate, there’s so much of that already. Where is God in all this? Suffering, just like us. He gave us free-will after all, and just like sometimes even the best of mothers will have a son or daughter in jail for doing something horrendous, just like that God must suffer through seeing his children make mistake after mistake, tragedy after tragedy. I like to believe that there is great power in the written word, and I can only hope that this power means someone will relate to this, that somewhere out there I can give someone a hug and tell them I’m so sorry, but that I see them. Wherever any of you may be, I’m here too. All of us, we are all here, remember that after a tragedy there are always the remains of those who stayed behind to pick up the pieces, and to continue living the life many were robbed from.
Love to all, Elle