Cut out stars and candles were arranged on the pavement inside the perimeter in a pulse shaped pattern. Couples hugged each other and everyone stood facing the building. A woman I didn't know hugged me and said she couldn't wait to see the sketch. She returned to her girlfriend in the crowd. A purple neon circle illuminated the spot above the entry. We were told not to go near the door since it was alarmed. I returned outside to join the line of TV news cameras. Cory James Connell's parents Tara and James Connell gave me a hug and a handshake. Tara said she was doing fine until they got to the club. She looked across the street with trepidation and then they walked across and entered the gate. As I sketched I could hear crying from behind the art decorated fence. Someone was wailing, bereft. My heart broke.
Afterward Tara told me that the six month memorial had been done right. Some memorial items were left inside and a bright rainbow sign was left for Cory. It was all so sad. I gave Tara a hug. She invited me to Woodlawn Cemetery that evening where her son was buried. Three other victims of the Pulse shooting were buried right beside him. A couple was buried to his right and the third to his left. At dusk they were having a service and would release Japanese floating lanterns in his honor. Tara gave directions to the grave site but there were so many twists and turns in the directions that I knew I was going to be lost. She confessed that she gets turned around when she goes. They went to their SUV, but James returned and gave me abbreviated directions. They both waved as they drove away. I wasn't alone. I love that family.
"When a wave of love takes over a human being... such an exaltation takes him that he knows he has put his finger on the pulse of the great secret and the great answer."
~Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings