The stages of grief apply to communities as well. I live in the historic district of downtown Orlando, a mile from the nightclub as the crow flies. My doctor’s office, grocery story, coffee shop, bagel store and daughter’s high school are all within a few block radius of the worst massacre in the United States. Orlando is my home. We are all still in the first stage of grief of shock, mixed with horror, over the incidents that happened this past weekend.
Here is what our neighborhood would like the world to know: the killer DOES NOT represents our community in ANY manner. In fact, his actions are in direct contrast to the way we live. We are traumatized by brutality of his actions and by the intolerance of his beliefs. Here are a few things about our area (this is not statistical, rather observational by someone who has lived in Orlando for over twenty years) that we wish others would know:
- We are a very diverse population. In our area, the demographics are about 1/3 Hispanic, 1/3 Black and Asian, and 1/3 White. There are numerous restaurants and shops specifically targeting the diversity. There are numerous dominations of churches and religions in the area each appealing to a variety of belief systems.
- We are a non-tourist section of Orlando. This specific part of Orlando is known as SODO (south of downtown) and contains the older community of the city. It is a trendy part of town with a mix of old historic homes, huge oak trees, renovated establishments, numerous parks, and new construction targeting those who work in downtown. Within in the last decade, it has become a popular place to live.
- We are known as City Beautiful. Lake Eola is about one mile away and is considered to be heart of Orlando. The beautiful lake, colorful fountain, newly added sculptures, popular farmer’s market, trendy restaurants, surrounding playgrounds, open performing area, and gorgeous protected swains are in the foreground to the numerous skyscrapers. On any given day, hundreds of residents and visitors walk the lake and enjoy the sights.
- We are very tolerant and accepting. Our diverse population also extends to the LBGTQ community. This is Pride month and is marked downtown with a parade and other activities. There is peace in our neighborhood despite the differences that is exemplified in the numerous celebrations throughout the year.
- We are an active and hospitable community. On any given weekend, the streets are blocked off for festivals, parades, marathons, rallies, and other special events. This is always something going on in the area for residents. These celebrations draw in residents from surrounding counties and we welcome the opportunity to be hosts.
- We are raw with emotion. Right now, we are horrified. We still can’t believe that this is happening to our area and we definitely don’t want this event to define us. But we do want our response to be a demonstration of how strong our community is. We stand together in prayer, unity and support for those families and friends who lost a loved one.
- We are giving. As soon as the announcement was made that our hospitals needed blood donations, people lined up to meet the need. Some waited in line for 5-7 hours just to donate. Others contributed water, snacks, and other supplies to local schools and organizations collecting for all of the hundreds of workers on site. Flowers were place in numerous locations around the area. Any wish of the hospital, law enforcement, or other organization working in the area is immediately granted.
- We are respectful. Whatever requests have been made by law enforcement has been met by our community without reservation. Our streets are closed off and local businesses are shut down until the area can be secured. There has been no complaint or frustration over the changes, just understanding and compassion. Our government, at the local, state and federal level, is working together in unison.
- We are will not live in fear. Life is going on here in Orlando. While we are still aghast, we are not fearful of doing our normal life. We are going to work, shopping, tending to neighbors, and attending memorials without hesitation. We are all determined not to allow this tragedy change how we live and love.
This is Orlando. It is an amazing place to live, work, and recreate. We are determined to remain strong and united in the face of horror. Please consider reposting this piece so everyone can hear about our incredible community.