we are orlando

6/17/2016

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I've found myself at a loss for words this week and if you know me you know that's not a place where I usually find myself.  Like many of you, I've been struggling to wrap my head around another devastating, tragic and unnecessary event that has taken too many lives too soon.  I wish that I could say that this is a foreign feeling for any of us, but sadly, it's not.  Particularly for me as nine years ago, my university was upended by a similar turn of events which left those in our community desperately seeking answers to questions that no one should have to ask.  It's an interesting intersection to find yourself: between a national tragedy and a personal connection to that tragedy.  I can tell you from personal experience that the reconciliation of that intersect takes time to process and it's brutal, it's excruciating, and it's a personal journey that gets easier over time, but never fully leaves you.  The one thing, that I have learned from all of this is that there is strength in community.  There is solace, there is grace, there is love, and there is hope in community.  Community and the ability to lean on others and those around help pull you out of these dark, incomprehensible times.  It is what helps you remember that out of that darkness, though there are never any answers to the questions that we have, there are positive steps forward; there can be progress and change.

I could go on a diatribe about gun control laws or hate crimes or domestic terror, but those conversations aren't the point of this.  They are important conversations for sure and ones that should be addressed regardless of the events in Orlando.  The point is that 49 innocent people are gone and an entire community lost not only their own, but the growing sense of progress and security that they have.  The victims deserve more, better; those who are left deserve more, better.  So for the time being, I'll choose unconditional love.  I'll choose to remember the victims, especially the one that I knew as the shining light that he was.  I'll choose to remember that there are heroes among us.  I'll choose to support those who need it, to believe that there is hope that minds & hearts can be changed, to live life where others tragically cannot, to endeavor to make an impact where I can, and to hold those whom I love a little closer, a little tighter.

If I have one message for the people who are trying to come to reconcile themselves with the tragic events in Orlando it is this (and I'm borrowing a line from Harvey Milk here): Hope will never be silent.

As a member of the Virginia Tech community, I stand with you.

As an ally of the LGBTQ community, I stand with you.

And most importantly, as a citizen of the world, I stand with you.

We are Orlando.

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