Tuesday, June 21, 2016
On Sunday morning around 2am a terrorist shot and murdered 49 men and women, and injured over 50, at Pulse nightclub south of Downtown Orlando. Being trapped in that club must have been a nightmare. This is the worst single gunman attack in the United States history. Vigils have begun around the world. People are rising up to comfort and share. I read that the terrorist had been staking out venues prior to the attack. He had considered Disney World among the possible places to attack. When I saw the there was a vigil on Disney property at the Buena Vista Palace Hotel, I had to go.
There was a Methodist Convention going on in the small convention hall next to the hotel. I arrived half an hour early and thought my information might be wrong, since there was no one in sight. I went inside and asked around. People were simply waiting inside, enjoying the air conditioning until the vigil began.
The vigil began with a gorgeous choir rendition of Dona Nobis Pacem. The title is Latin, for "Grant us Peace." The overlapping voices make the canon absolutely heavenly. There was a short sermon. The pastor recounted how he loved the Christmas Eve candle light service which would inspire families to come out who didn't regularly attend church. He then pointed out how we all must be more loving and accepting of all people regardless of their sexual orientation, nationality, religion or gender. I was raised Methodist, so all the choral music was familiar, and I sang along.
Everyone raised their blue glow sticks in the air as the names of the 49 who died were read. There was a warm feeling of community among the parishioners who had come from all over the country. I'm emotionally drained and focused on the sketch rather than my feelings. I focused on capturing the light. I decided to host an event in which artists will gather to do 49 portraits of the fallen. It is a small gesture in the face of unimaginable horror.
I began to wonder on the drive home, would it be possible for one artist to do a portrait of each person who dies from gun violence in America? On an average day, 91 people die from gun violence. No artist could possibly execute that many portraits every day. That is impossible. The numbers are staggering.