Dear Orlando: As a Nation, We Bleed for You

People light candles for a vigil following a fatal shooting at a Pulse Orlando nightclub (Branden Camp/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Dear Orlando,

We love you. We simply, truly, madly, and deeply, love you.

When they want to attack our economy, they hit our big cities. When they want to attack our government, they hit our capitols. But when they want to break our heart, they go after you. You’re the home of the Happiest Place on Earth. I daresay that you, sweet Orlando, are an anchor for America’s happiness. Even though we don’t know all of the details about the attacker’s scheme, we know that the terror landed on you. And our hearts have fallen, broken on the floor.

I don’t know how to wrap my mind around the senselessness of it all. I don’t know how to think about the magnitude of the loss, the terror, the ripple effect of the largest mass murder in the history of our country. It’s too much to take in, and I find myself shutting it out because it’s overwhelming. But I know, dear friends, that shutting it out is the last thing I can do. It’s the last thing any of us must do.

But I have learned in moments like these that when I can’t think of all the people, when they become faceless in the sea of it all, I can think instead of one person. My heart breaks for the sister who can’t find her brother today. Because there are too many sisters who can’t find their brothers today. My brother lives and works in the heart of Orlando as an actor at Walt Disney World, and when my newsfeed blew up this morning with tidbits, tweets, and terror from the magical city, I reached to find him. He answered right away. “Yes, I’m okay, and my friends are okay. But I am learning that my friends’ friends are not okay.”

I breathed a ragged sigh of relief, but I immediately felt a jagged empathy for a faceless sister I don’t know who sent her brother a similar Are-You-Okay text but then didn’t get the same reply. People are waiting to hear from their people.

I read CNN’s description of the investigators inside the nightclub, where many of the bodies still lie where they fell, and how they must tune out the nightmarish sound of all the phones of the deceased, ringing constantly as the loved ones try to reach them. I read this, and I thought, “It’s their sisters. Their sisters are calling.”

Orlando, you are our family, our brothers and sisters. What has happened to you has happened to us. We are lining up in our cities to give blood because we cannot get to your city fast enough to give straight from our veins to yours. As a nation, we bleed for you.

When our nation is in crisis, I believe Facebook is at her finest, though I contend that Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t have foreseen the network of grace he was creating with his genius.

Jen Hatmaker challenged us all: “Don’t Say Nothing.” She wrote, “Here is what we can do: Call your gay friend, neighbor, daughter, college roommate, son, coworker, church member, brother – call them voice to voice, or even better, face to face where you can put loving arms around them and say: ‘This was unspeakable. This was horrible. This was unconscionable. I see this evil and I condemn it fully. I will sit right here and grieve with you. We will not gloss this over or forget. You might feel unsafe or insecure or scared today, and I want you to know you are not alone. I love you and I stand by you.'”

Glennon Doyle Melton wrote to her Facebook followers, “Please be fiercely tender with your family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and enemies today. We have to do our part to restore balance to this planet. Meet hate with love. Meet darkness with light. Meet fear with senseless, relentless, extravagant love.”

And my brother posted to his WDW community, “‘There’s no people like show people. We smile when we are low.’ For many of us in Orlando, our job is to take our audience’s mind off their world and the world’s events. It is a noble profession. Let’s do it well today.”

Those of you in the heart of it all where the world vacations, the ones we count on to distract us with your happiness, you are among the bravest heroes.

Orlando, we love you. In every way. As we seek to love you with our gentle fierceness, as we seek to not say nothing, as we misstep and fall over our words by tripping on our intentions, please feel our arms around you.

Dear God in heaven, please be near.