Carry on, Orlando

IMG_0016As I stood amid thousands of people in downtown Orlando on Monday remembering the victims of the unthinkable massacre the day before at Pulse nightclub, I couldn’t help thinking that the shooter would have hated this. He would have hated that life was going on as normal, that people were coming together from all walks of life, races, genders and sexual orientations. That monster – sort of like the Grinch after he stole the Whos’ Christmas presents – would have been utterly bewildered that his rampage didn’t affect our spirit one bit. It just made us stronger.

IMG_0018The evidence was everywhere. There were the free items being passed out to everyone: candles, food, water. There was the stranger who walked up to me, smiled and handed me a small card that read simply, “You matter.” There was the Muslim woman kneeling down to sign the long tapestry of praise and remembrance for the victims of the tragedy. And there were the tiny, handmade, paper-mâché hot-air balloons being lit one by one, lifting into the night sky to honor the dead and celebrate life.

IMG_0025I’m a movie critic, so I don’t pretend to offer any great insight into why the shooter failed to divide us. I just know he failed — because I know what I saw and heard on Monday. I also know that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the other speakers got it right when they told the crowd in front of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts that we should keep being who we are and that we should be proud for not being afraid. Indeed, I saw lots of emotions on the faces of the people on Monday night, but fear wasn’t one of them.


Each citizen of Orlando will deal with this tragedy – and also the shooting death of Voice singer Christina Grimmie just one night before at Orlando’s Plaza Live – in his or her own way. As for me, well, I’m going to the movies, because that’s what I do. In fact, that’s where I found myself on the Sunday morning after the shooting. I was at the Enzian Theater in Maitland with friends, watching locally made films and reaffirming our sense of community. A 30-second moment of silence was observed before the program started, and when it was over and the short films began to flicker, we all felt better about ourselves, our lives and our city.

Keep Calm and Carry On 2So whatever it is that you do — whatever it is that keeps you going — stay strong and keep doing it. And keep doing it.

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