Today marks two years since the Pulse massacre. At the time, I had just moved back to Orlando and had been here for little over a month. It was definitely a shock when we woke up to news of a mass shooting in the vacation capital of the Sunshine State. Orlando was supposed to be safe, a town of endless suburbia around an Old Florida core, the home of The Mouse. And yet a man full of hatred for people different than him, armed to the teeth with weapons that the laws in this country should’ve made illegal ages ago, walked into a nightclub on a rampage that ended with forty-nine people dead, hundreds wounded physically, mentally, and emotionally, and a city forever scarred.
At the time of Pulse, I had just started working at an Orlando hospital, one far from the downtown area where the massacre happened, and even half a city away we felt the shockwaves, as an entire city mobilized to provide help to everyone affected. A year later, however, I had taken a position at the very hospital that handled the crisis that night, and though a year had passed, the effects were still very much felt. Even now, as we mark the second anniversary, I hear the whispered tales of people who worked that night and the weeks after, and you can tell it’s still fresh in their minds. How can it not be?
This week there will be lots of events memorializing the event and the forty-nine people that died that night, including some at my hospital. My wife, when she arrived from work last night, told me she could already feel the heaviness descending upon the hospital like a shroud. As I write this I have no idea how the work day will be, but I know for a fact that we will all be thinking about Pulse whether we say it or not.
The hospital I work at is only three blocks from Pulse. See that picture above? I took that from my car as I drove by. Every day I work I get to see Pulse, see the flowers and flags and cardboard messages, see the people walking somberly around the memorial, see the people kneeling by the picture of a loved one, see people crying and holding each other. Every day I work I am reminded of what hatred can do. Every day I work I am reminded that our country has yet to enact strong gun reform laws that will make massacres like Pulse (or Santa Fe or Parkland or Las Vegas or or or or) a thing of the past. Every day I work I remember Pulse.
#OrlandoStrong is now as much a part of Orlando culture as Mickey Mouse or the Lake Eola swans are, an act of defiance in the face of hatred, but make no mistake, hatred still exists. That’s why we memorialize the events at Pulse, why we remember the dead, why we grieve collectively, because hatred still exists, even right around us, and we need to remind ourselves and everyone that love will win over hate. It won’t be easy, but love will win.
Pulse. It’s one of the vital signs I monitor on all my patients, an indicator of life, of a heart beating, pumping blood. Forty-nine people went pulseless that night, and it’s up to us to carry on their memory, the fix the system that allowed this massacre to happen, to defeat hatred by burying it in love for one another. Let our collective pulse be the sound of life and love.