Reflections on a Memorial Service on a Summer Day

Graphic by Brendon Lies.

Across the nation on a hot Sunday afternoon in June, lesbians and gays gathered to pay tribute and homage to all those slain at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

From coast to coast and shore to shore, the shootings reverberated in churches and communities. Even Major League Baseball held a moment of silence for those slain, before every game began.

Here in greater Fort Lauderdale, at the Pride Center of Equality Park, we started with the gay men's chorus setting a tone and mood of remembrance. The crowd was not somber, but reflective. The afternoon sun bore down upon us, but the center's trees shaded us.

We gathered by the plaques and memorials  to those already lost, this time to the bullets of a senseless false revenge striking us down once again.

"We will not be shaken," said the chief operating officer of the Pride Center, Kristofer Fegenbush, "we will answer the voices of hate with stronger voices of love."

Religious leaders offered solace, but how do you calm the anguish of 50 slaughtered mercilessly in a nightclub simply because they were Americans, choosing to live and love together members of the same sex?

From congressional leaders to local city commissioners, people spoke of grief and pain words could never tame. As inspiring and optimistic as the orators sought to be, there is no psalm or song that can soften the devastation and hurt wreaked upon us and our country this past Sunday.

Debbie Wassermann Schultz,  our local congressman said that "today, in the face of absolute evil, today we are all LGBT. "

Reminding us that this was the first pride month where we could celebrate full marriage equality, she talked of remaining "vigilant."

Congressman Ted Deutsch echoed her thoughts, noting how many citizens in Orlando immediately lined up to donate blood.

What today shows is that the deadlier the attack upon our values as Americans, the stronger our union becomes.
What today shows is our nation is more about becoming brothers then tolerating bigots.

These are the days we live in. Sudden terror invades our lives, from exploding planes to schoolyard slayings. The hatred makes no sense and the murders sniff out lives all too meaninglessly. But as long as we have a breath left in our body, we can't surrender to madness or massacres.

We have to fight back by creating a community that is armed not only with the arms to protect us, but to arm ourselves with the strength that will enhance our credibility and strengthen our lives as a gay community.

Law enforcement has our back. Decent citizens have our prayers. The world cares and is concerned. But we have to educate more still. We don't need the tolerance of some; we need the acceptance of all.

Lord Alfred Tennyson, the poet, said it well, "This is not what I meant at all. This is not what I meant at all."

"The times," Bob Dylan once wrote "are a changing." But maybe not in the way we wanted or like.

For young kids dancing at a gay nightclub in Orlando 12 hours ago, the world changed in a way we will never forget. Now we have to change it back to a way we will always want to remember.

Whatever we have done, we need to do more. Days like this and memorials like today will end only when hatred and bigotry do first.


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