It was Sunday morning. Tragedy struck, so at first I didn’t believe the news. I could not fathom the truth, that hate and sorrow had gained control of my city overnight. My first thoughts were that while I was fast asleep, dreaming about a better life, others were wide awake fighting for their own.
Some stories said they hadn’t caught the shooter yet. I woke up afraid for my life too. 49 people died that morning, and 53 people survived. The wound hasn’t completely healed, and for others it is still fresh.
Despite the feelings of fear, anger, and anxiety that overcame us, we managed to pull ourselves together, and we immediately began to rebuild our community. Our city’s servicemen, policemen and firefighters alike, had already been hard at work since that morning. Surgeons and nurses were rushed into emergency surgery, the lives of many were resting on their shoulders. Just a few hours after the event, we stood in long lines waiting to donate blood. By noon most blood drives had reached capacity. Local businesses donated both their time and money to offer support. I remember most, the local Chick-fil-A rallied their employees, on a Sunday, cooked hundreds of meals and passed them around to those waiting in long lines at the blood drives. My school’s administration sent out a letter, reminding its students that the university is a safe place, and to spread the word that they will offer free counseling to anyone in need.
At night our city glows in color, while during the day rainbow flags stand strong against the wind. After all, we are Orlando, one of the largest tourist attractions in the world. We live for diversity and inclusion. As the days pass and weeks turn into months, our city continues to advocate for love and respect. My city overcame a tragedy by honoring the past and cherishing the present while looking ahead into the future. We will never forget the 49. We are Orlando strong!