As soon as I think I'm tired enough to actually sleep, I start thinking about Orlando again, and it doesn't stop.
All of these mass shootings make me sick, but for some reason, this one has affected me more than any other. Aside from the few hours that I was watching the Tony Awards, I've felt like I've been swallowing a lump in my throat and fighting back tears every second since I woke up Sunday morning and saw this terrifying news.
I think I was in shock at first, but as I read more details, it began to sink in.
And then the numbers came out. And the names. The names of the forty-nine people taken in this violence came trickling in, and it became very, very, sickeningly real.
It's one thing to know people died. It's another thing to see their faces and learn their names. To stare at their pictures and have it punch you in the face that these really were actual living, breathing human beings with real lives and loves and dreams, not just a story on the news.
I think about the one victim, Eddie Justice, who, while trapped in a bathroom by the gunman, texted his mother begging her for help. One of the last messages he sent her was "I'm gonna die." Can you imagine getting a text like that from your child? In the middle of the night? When you had no idea anything could be going wrong?
I think about the investigators who had to walk through that nightclub. As was told to CNN, they had to walk through scores of dead bodies listening to phones ring as family members and loved ones called desperately trying to check on them. And they couldn't touch the phones to turn them off or answer the calls because it was...well, a crime scene. So they just had to listen to the ringing while staring at utter carnage.
I saw a post online where one of the doctors at the trauma center that was, thankfully, only two blocks from the club, who posted a picture of his blood-soaked tennis shoes and talked about what it was like treating fifty-four injured people and how he's keeping those blood-soaked shoes as a reminder of how he felt that night.
Even just writing this out makes me think I'm going to start sobbing. I don't know the last time writing a blog post about a news story seemed to physically hurt me this much. Maybe it's because I have people whom I love very much who are part of the LGBT+ community or Muslim, and I just imagine one of them being inside that club. I don't know. What I do know is that this hurts.
But the one sense of peace I feel is that in the midst of all of this is that there are still stories of love coming out.
There was a security guard at the club who managed to get 60 or 70 (his estimate) out through a back door as they were all crammed into a back hallway, saving their lives before the shooter found them. And all he could say when the news called him a hero was, "I wish I could've done more. There are a lot of people dead."
There are pictures and videos of hundreds of people lining up outside of blood banks for hours in the Florida heat to donate blood. Veterans showing up to give blood. Muslim men, in the middle of their Ramadan fast and at a time when too many people will blame their religion as a whole, coming out in droves to donate. An Orlando Chick-Fil-A spending Sunday (the day they're supposed to be closed) cooking hundreds of chicken sandwiches and orders of fries to give to people waiting in the heat to donate. Women and children, including Muslim women in their hijabs, going around giving food, water, sunscreen, and other help to the people in the lines.
I could write an entire novel about gun control and how the fact that we had 173 mass shootings in the 164 days of 2016 including Sunday in Orlando scares the hell out of me. But right now, I'm tired, and I'm sad, and I'm scared, and I'm trying desperately to hold onto hope that we'll go back to a world where mass shootings aren't the norm - where first graders can go to school, and African Americans can go to church, and family and friends can go to the movies without being scared of being murdered.
I really wish my brain would turn off so I can sleep, but even in thinking that, I think about all the people down in Florida who probably haven't slept since the shooting and are going to be haunted by this. And it makes all my troubles just seem silly.
Lord, be near. I don't know what else to say but Lord, please come and be with the brokenhearted.
These are the brothers and sisters we lost:
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Kimberly Morris, 37
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29, of Jacksonville
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Amanda Alvear, 25
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Cory James Connell, 21
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Brenda Lee Marquez McColl, 49
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Frank Hernandez, 27
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
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