My Orlando

James took this picture on our block two years ago. 

James took this picture on our block two years ago. 

I couldn't write much yesterday. I'm still feeling both physically and emotionally paralyzed. I am far from home, but I'm seeing the pictures. There is a blood bus on my street and later today families of more than 100 families will be convening and the senior center down the block to learn what they can about a madman with an assault weapon who reigned terror and blood over our once beautiful and innocent city.

My love for Orlando is no secret. I am no shy about it. I moved here a little more than 2 years ago just a shell of my former self. I like to say I dropped out of the sky because it was almost an accident that brought me here. But there I was a broken winged bird in a free fall.

I expected a hard landing. But that didn't happen. I expected a lot of alone time to sort through my feelings. That didn't happen either. 

By some magic I had landed softly on a cushion held by the dearest community I could have imagined. Kind and super creative folks welcomed me as one of their own. And make no mistake Orlando is one unified community. Gender, color, sexual orientation borders have no place here. Nobody tried to size me up. All souls are excepted so it doesn't matter in what category you may fall. How would one describe a "gay bar" in Orlando? I'm not even sure. Our clubs are all -- everything. Nobody is excluded. Every time I go to a "gay" club, I am treated like a welcomed and special guest. Because in Orlando, that is all the people know how to do. So, are they "gay" bars? Sure! Heck yes, in every meaning of the word. But don't mistake that for exclusion on either side.

I am certain beyond any doubt that the man who reigned terror at the Pulse in the early hours of yesterday was welcomed with open arms. I am sure everyone he encountered on his way in gave him a big and happy smile. The Pulse is in my neighborhood. It has a wonderful reputation for entertainment. It is unheard of that anyone went to the Pulse, the PH, the Venue... or countless other fun clubs downtown without having a great time or feeling welcomed. 

I feel as if a canon ball took a swift path through my chest and now there is nothing but a huge hole. What has happened to my beautiful city? How do we begin to support the families of these smiling children? They were children. (old and tired folks like me are home by 2am) These kids were young and energetic. Each one with great promise for a future. All with smiles to bring the light and energy our world greatly needs. They were taken from us all. We all feel the pain, but we must find strength to be strong for their moms, dads, siblings and loved ones. How do we do that? 

And what of Orlando? Our city beautiful. What remains of the innocent joy I landed in 2 years ago? Do we find this ever again? Are we still going to greet every stranger with a smile and a hug? 

This community only weeks ago was bonding together over missing baby swans. There is love and caring here. Please let it be enough to heal all those that need healing. 

The thing that will not change in Orlando: the LGBT community is the Orlando community. We are one. There is pride but there are no lines. This will never change. #onelove #onepulse