Sunday, July 10, 2016

50 Angels in the Dr. Phillips Plaza.


After the "Beautiful Together" Pulse Memorial Concert, John DiDonna directed a moving tribute to the victims by having 50 angel's wings made at the Orlando Shakespeare scenic shop out of white fabric and PVC. Similar wings had been used by a hateful out of town Baptist group that planned to protest at victim's funerals claiming that the shooter was sent by god. Hundreds of locals went to funerals where the Baptists might protest to keep the hate mongers from disrupting a families peace of mind as they had to grieve the loss of a son or daughter. Unfortunately passing cars honked their support for the loving counter protesters, which in itself became a disruption.

I left the concert early to start the sketch. Two silent lines of 25 angels each walked to the plaza from behind the Performing Arts Center. They encircled the plaza which was now full of candles, banners flowers and grieving messages of support from around the country and around the world. A light drizzle began to fall. John quickly staged the angel so that they formed an even phalanx around the plaza. Each held a candle. The 50th angel was to honor "The Voice" singer Christina Grimme who was shot days before the Pulse Tragedy at the Plaza Live in Orlando. I sketched from under my umbrella. As if on cue, the rain stopped as the huge audience flowed out of the theater and into the plaza.

The silent vigil moved so many to tears. One reader thanked me for being a witness to all that has been happening these past weeks. Her sincere gratitude finally caused me to start crying. Betsy Brabandt was in tears as she stopped to say hello. I think it was impossible to experience this outpouring of love and grief without being overwhelmed. Wendy Wallenberg did her best, joking with me and even joking with  two women who were crying in front of a large rainbow colored flower display. She managed to make them chuckle even as they cried. "Life is like that," she said. "It keeps coming at you from all angles."

City Commission Patty Sheehan spoke with Wendy explaining that the loss of a partner and other losses had helped prepare her for the incredible losses felt this week. She has been an emotional rock and voice of reason through out the week. A woman in tears came up to Patty and hugged her, thanking he for all she has done. I looked away, trying to keep from once again breaking down. There were 49 wreaths in the City Hall lobby and the flowers are now dead. Patty was going there after the concert to pick the flowers to use in 49 shadow boxes being prepared for the grieving families. She did this task alone, another silent and lonely vigil for those who had died.

I joined Wendy and several of her friends at the Grand Bohemian for drinks afterwards. Due to a waitress mix up, I ended up with a second drink on the house. I needed it. I usually rush back to my studio to do a write up before midnight. I couldn't do it. I needed to numb some of these feelings if only for a moment. We all have so much grief, some of it unrelated to the tragedy, but it all bubbles up to the surface to be faced during evenings like this.

4 comments:

Jen Vargas said...

Thank you for this sketch and write-up. It was a beautiful evening. The way our arts community came together, in such overwhelming amounts, was breathtaking. You'd swear John DiDonna planned for the rain to stop exactly when it did. Seneff Arts Plaza was filled with love that night; tears, hugs, shared memories. I will never forget it. (I was honored to be Angel #21.)

david lee-vi day said...

Thomas thanks so much for being there.
Four sets of wings were originally made by The Orlando Shakesepare Theater to block the protestors at the funerals. They were not used by The Westboro Baptist Church but instead to block them from protesting. A team of Disney Volunteers helped OST make the remaining wings in time for the event at DPAC.

brunilda concepcion said...

I was one of the Angeles it's beautiful

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you thank you but it is important to remember so many people who made this happen. The idea and the creativity and the creation was all Orlando Shakespeare Theater and volunteers - Jim Helsinger was the producer of this. David Lee and Margaret Nolan helped out every inch of the way. And so many amazing volunteers! - John DiDonna