One year later. It’s funny how much longer it seems since the terrible tragedy rocked Orlando. I was sent beautiful pictures of Orlando showing support for those who lost their lives in the Pulse tragedy, but how do you write about something like that? There’s no celebration, nothing a simple theme park writer can say that will ever make it better.
I remember sitting there a year ago watching with tears streaming down my face as people I knew worried about family and friends, via social media. Several of the parks I love, and write about had team members who were either lost to the tragedy, affected by the tragedy, or lost someone they knew and loved. How could a place that brought joy and togetherness to so many people be marred by such a tragedy?
It turns out, that it wasn’t…not really.
In the days following the attack, people in Orlando came out in amazing numbers to support. Blood donation was so high that people were being turned away. If you have the chance to donate today, please do so. Over $27 million dollars was raised for the families and victims of the shooting, money that they actually saw and were able to use. More charities popped up in the honor of Pulse to bring light to other causes, and to help stop things like this again.
The ugly side also came out. Politicians used the tragedy as a platform to get votes…and even fly false flags of support. Conspiracy theorists said that it never happened. Religious and political hate groups came out of the woodwork to condemn the people who died, as if they were being punished. But Orlando had other plans. The people of Orlando pushed back, and especially those hate groups were shut down without getting the chance to show their messages.
I guess, I’m not writing this as a celebration, or a memorial, but as a testament to how Orlando and her people are united against it all. It’s a place of amazing fun, celebration and escape, but sometimes the real world comes knocking, and the anger, hate and disgust comes flooding in. Throughout it all, throughout the pain and the tears, Orlando stays strong.
A year later, many of the attractions and destinations around the city are lit up with the colors of the rainbow, a testament to their support of the community. The Orlando Eye shines brightly as it turns slowly and silently through the night sky. The Orange County Convention Center brings two rainbows to their massive concourses. It’s proof that even in the darkest of times, the best of all us can still shine through.
Being marred by a tragedy means that something has been disfigured, or ruined. While the scars are there, and the hurt was real, Orlando hasn’t been permanently damaged. Hurt? Yes. Changed? Definitely. Broken…a little, but still good. Yep, still good.
It’s been a hard journey for you, but as the lights still shine on all the amazing attractions and buildings in the area, it proves that Orlando is strong, Orlando is United, Orlando is love. You can do your best, but in the end love will overcome. It has to.
We love you all.