A Reporter Reflects on Orlando

As I leave Orlando after a week of covering the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, I have many emotions running through me.

I am saddened and troubled that, once again, we find ourselves confronting and dealing with violence, tragedy and bloodshed on a massive scale. The people murdered inside the Pulse nightclub were people with goals, dreams, hopes, loves, fears and desires. In other words, they were just like me. And you. The fact that they have been suddenly and irrevocably ripped from their friends and families is tragic and unacceptable.

But watching the people of Orlando and the people who descended on Orlando respond to and deal with the tragedy in their city also reminded me of the kindness, goodness and selflessness of people, especially when they face pain and suffering on an unimaginable scale.

There were do-gooders like the guy who delivered handmade crosses made for each of the victims. There were people who brought flowers, balloons, food, water and anything else that was needed to victims and their families. There were prayer groups who offered people in grief a chance to talk, share and, if it was possible, find some way to make sense of the senseless.

There were the people at Ace Hardware a few blocks from Pulse and the bank across the street who offered visiting journalists like me water, snacks, clean bathrooms, and most importantly, air conditioning. There were accommodating police officers and Florida Highway Patrol troopers. There were respectful members of the public who gave us space to work and cover a story that no one wanted to.

The stories that we told of the heroic acts done by police officers and firefighters also shone through. Time and again we heard tales of people going above and beyond the call of duty to not only do their jobs but reveal their humanity in the face such horror and sadness. There were officers who risked their lives to save people trapped in the club and bystanders who rushed people to the hospital, pressed into duty by sheer happenstance. These are stories worth remembering.

During our coverage, I was also reminded of my own humanity. I had a chance to speak on the phone with the mother of one of the victims — a woman I had neither met nor spoken to previously. I won’t publish her name because I don’t know if she would want me to but her effect on me was profound and deep. She told me the story of her son, a young man gunned down inside Pulse. He was like many of the victims — young, bright, talented, with a life of fulfillment and success right in front of him. She cried while telling me about her son and the bond they shared. And then something happened to me that hasn’t happened in a long time while on the job. I cried. A lot. The tears poured from my eyes with abandon as I connected with this stranger on the other end of a phone line. I felt her pain, as I could only imagine the hurt, anger and suffering she dealt with every second of every day. As a father, I wanted to race home that moment and tell my children how much I loved them and wrap them in a never-ending embrace.

I hope and pray that she is someday able to find some way to heal, although I have no way of knowing if that is even possible. If only there were words for me and the rest of mankind to offer her and the dozens of other families struggling with the crippling unfairness of losing a cherished loved one in a spasm of violence.

(Courtesy: Photo credit: Tim Evanson via DIYlovin / CC BY-SA)


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