During my travel to and from Costa Rica in January/February of 2018, I had the opportunity to visit with my friend Lavonne who lives in Orlando. The first night I stayed with her, I saw fellow Chippewa, Greg Angel reporting on the local news there about the official monument that would be built in the space where 49 of my LGBTQ+ siblings were tragically shot down in June of 2016 and I knew I couldn't leave Orlando without visiting the Pulse memorial. So, at the end of the week, when I returned from Costa Rica, Lavonne took me there. At that point, it was still a raw, impromptu memorial of candles, flowers, stuffed animals and other mementos left by loved ones.
The moment we pulled into the parking lot across the street and got out of the car, it was as if entering a magnetic field of emotion. It truly felt like the energy of all those beautiful people and everyone who love mourn them was heavy in the air. I wept as I walked from one side of the memorial to the other, reading handwritten notes left honoring their memories. In just the 30-40 minutes that we spent there, we encountered several others who were there to do the same thing. At one point, a stranger who was also there visiting handed me an extra napkin for my tears as she passed by me. It was both beautiful and heartbreaking. There were so many notes written all over the place, that people had begun writing their notes on the rocks in the bed of rocks near the road. The first six photos of this post are from that visit and you will see the rock on which I wrote my message.
About five months later, Ethan and I visited Orlando again on our way to our vacation and again we stayed a night with Lavonne. At that point, a more formal memorial had been finished and I wanted to revisit the site. This visit, though still emotional, felt different. In some strange way, it felt like there had been at least a little bit of healing. There were photos that showed some of the ways in which the community had come together stronger as a result of this tragic event and I was left with a feeling of hope. There were indications of the worldwide reach and outpouring of love for these angels, a level of awareness that demands we do better as humans.
May we all connect with the Divinity within each of us and lift up the Light of each of these angels that it may change the world for the better, forever, for everyone.
Jennifer Miracle-Best is an author and speaker whose Calling is to help victims of spiritual violence find healing.