Dear Orlando,

It’s times like these you can never find the correct words to say. Each sentence doesn’t feel like it’s enough. There’s a sense of hopelessness because all you can do is sit there and hope for the best even though you already know it’s unlikely.

I never really knew what it meant to be in love with a city. Who could ever love Orlando? It’s humid, crowded with tourism, and I-4 traffic. But then you meet the people. They are full of life, passion, and love. People that are barely making enough money to survive yet continue on because they are so passionate about the work they are doing. A few years ago I asked people to send me their stories about how they ended up in Orlando and almost every person had a similar response: that they were looking for a place of acceptance. Here’s a quote from a dear friend of mine that states it beautifully:

I moved to Florida because it always seemed to be a beacon of hope for me that the world was bigger than my small town. Florida would be the place where it would be ok to be myself, away from family bonds. Florida was freedom and sunshine wrapped in optimism for me.

When I woke up to the news this morning, I was devastated. I felt as if I was inside of a nightmare – some kind of cruel joke. I was desperate to get a hold of everyone I knew, and I couldn’t stop shaking each time I touched my phone. I was nervous to refresh my social media for fear of seeing the name of someone I knew.

Orlando is a part of me. I see these terrible things happen all over the world and never imagined that something so close to me could be a part of something so tragic. Two of my friends are missing that were last seen at Pulse – and I can’t do anything but wait. But it’s not just me, it’s hundreds of people are sitting at their computers, at hospitals, or on their phone just searching for signs, updates, hope, or confirmations. People who are looking for their family. Their friends.

If I learned one thing from living in Orlando it’s to spread love. The people in Orlando aren’t okay today, and it’ll take time before they can be. But they are still out there doing what they do best by helping those in need, comforting those who are in pain, and making sure that everyone else is okay. It’s okay to be speechless today. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to try and remain positive through this mess. Don’t let the hatred that started this tragedy win.

I love you, Orlando. Thank you for being a city that has given so many people hopes and dreams to be who they want to be.

 

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