Leadership during a tragedy involves making the right decisions after gathering your facts, remaining calm, and then leading the community to a safe place and toward healing.

This is exactly what our community leaders in the City of Wilton Manors did during the recent tragedy at the Stonewall Pride Parade.

Wilton Manors Mayor Scott Newton, Vice Mayor Paul Rolli, Commissioner Chris Caputo, Commissioner Mike Bracchi, Commissioner Gary Resnick, and Police Chief Gary Blocker showed great strength and professionalism during the recent tragedy at the Stonewall Pride Parade. Their calm comments and caring demeanor helped us get to the truth about what happened. We are grateful that they did not join other “leaders” who jumped to erroneous conclusions about the motivation behind this tragic event. Those irresponsible comments only fueled further trauma for our community and led to erroneous news reports by some in the media who took them at face value without investigating further. Thankfully, The South Florida Gay News practiced responsible journalism and helped keep our community informed and calm.

We were very disappointed in Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis. We can only imagine how scary this must have been for him to witness but his comments were premature and irresponsible. His “apology” was equally insufficient and the type of political doublespeak that gives politicians a bad name. His comments were themselves traumatizing to our community given the rash of hate that has been unleashed against LGBT people in our country recently. We know that Wilton Manors is an oasis of inclusion and a safe place for our all families, LGBT and our allies! Thank you to our Wilton Manors leaders for reminding everyone of our community’s values and why life is truly better here.

We are so proud of how our city officials managed this situation. They were there at the scene and remained calm and professional. They made the decision to cancel the parade, which in our opinion, was the right call. Although we were all disappointed that the parade did not happen, we support and understand the importance of respecting those who were injured and also assuring that the community remained safe as the events unfolded. Our city leaders represented us at the Sunshine Cathedral Vigil on Sunday evening where they spoke with care and concern.

We would also like to thank Police Chief Gary Blocker and the Wilton Manors Police Department for the constant communication and for keeping our city safe. We subscribe to the SaferWatch app, and all the messages sent by the WMPD during and after the crisis were very reassuring and timely. The chief handled this crisis with the utmost professionalism in what was perhaps his first major crisis as our new Chief of Police. Well done, chief!  We are so lucky to have our own progressive police department in the City of Wilton Manors.

Now we all will need to heal. We hope the members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus can begin to heal and we keep them, including the man who died, the injured, and the driver involved in the accident, in our prayers. Their gift of music has built many bridges for our community over the years and they are truly a community treasure. We will all need to be there to support them as they grieve and rise from this tragedy.

To our Wilton Manors leaders, you made us very proud and provided the type of positive and factual leadership that we needed during this crisis. Thank you for keeping us safe and for showing true leadership. You provided just the right leadership to help our One Human Family during this terrible accident and reminded us why we love living in the Island City!

- Rudy Molinet and Jeff Shearer, Wilton Manors

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