Thursday, June 16, 2016
I went to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to witness the ever growing memorial for the 49 lives lost at the Pulse Terrorist Attack. On this evening, I was going to do an event sketch at the Grand Bohemian which is right across the street. An American Flag held up by a white PVC frame had the names of all 49 of the Orlando Citizens who lost their lives embroidered into the red stripes. A large candle said, "Hate will never win". A rainbow colored paper chain surrounded the whole altar. There were small American flags and lots of rainbow colored pin wheels.
It was a scorching hot day and when I was offered a bottle of water, I took it. The cut flowers that were everywhere wouldn't last long in this heat. Heart shaped helium balloons waved in the breeze. Two young high school girls approach me with a pink card. I accepted it and thanked them. A packet of Smarties was taped to the card which read, "You are Loved, Pass it on." #Love Wins, # Orlando Strong. The O in Loved was shaped like heart. It was such a sweet gesture. Struggling with my sketch, I is at the "This is Shit" and "I am Shit" phase of the creative process. I was certainly not feeling much love. At least the candy was sweet. I had a relative who used to work in a smarties factory in South Carolina. He used to breath in that sweetness every day. He died.
Mack became curious about my sketch and sat beside me. Evey few minutes his cell phone would whistle. He explained that the noise indicated that he got a text. Mack liked to talk. He told me that he had been to the 9/11 memorial in NYC. He was once a firefighter so he had special access. He told me that one woman at the memorial had purchased a plane ticket on one of the doomed flights. She had decided against going and traded the ticket with a friend. Her friend died on 9/11. She left the unused ticket beside her friend's name on the memorial.
Four volunteers huddled together in prayer under an umbrella. A break dancer performed to a song titled, "Where is the love?" I was offered several dozen bottles of water and drank two during the marking of this sketch. I even accepted a bag of Fritos. Everyone wants to do something to help. It seems rude to ignore the gestures. A grief counselor talked to anyone who would listen. It seems people often respond to grief by excessive eating and drinking. That might have something to do with constantly being offered comfort food and water.
As I got ready to go to the Grand Bohemian a Washington Post reporter pulled me a side for an interview. I explained that I was a Illustrative Reporter, but he seemed intent on asking questions. Anything I told him, I've probably already written here. I don't know if my answers helped. Orlando is still in pain. I am still in pain. This coming week there will be 49 funerals. A Baptist Church group is planning to protest at some of these funerals spouting their bigotry and hate. Others will surround the funeral homes with love. My hope is to sketch the love and turn my back on hate. As I crossed over to the Grand Bohemian, two protesters shouted to passing cars, "What do we want?" "A ban on Assault riffles!" "When do we want it?" "Yesterday!!!" I admired them.
I live on Gay Road. My upstairs neighbors have hung a rainbow flag from their balcony. The bright colors light up my view. The neighbors across the way followed. I've heard that my upstairs neighbors have been harassed by older tenants in the complex. That has to stop. We all need to help one another. Lets stop the divisiveness and hate.