Orlando, my hometownNaari Honor / June 24, 2016
Although I now call Greensboro my home, there are pieces of my heart that will forever reside in Orlando, Florida. The city in which I was raised from the age of four years old.
When I close my eyes I can still see my adolescent hands holding, what appeared to me at the time, larger than life oranges that grew in my grandfather’s backyard before the frost killed them. And although I now live four hours away from the nearest beach and the home of the great mouse, the smell and taste of salt-water is forever embedded in me.
From time to time I find myself chuckling at random moments from the past such as the sound of my mother’s voice, a native of Tampa, Fl., telling me stories of how Orlando was nothing but orange groves before Disney “took-over”.
I prefer to remember Orlando in this way. However, the moment I awoke on June 11, I’ve been struggling to hold on to all those good memories.
I will not deny that I have taken Orlando for granted since I left. When one relocates, he or she tends to forget home while simultaneously remaining homesick. But when I hear the news blasting words like “massacre”, “mass-shooting”, “possible-terrorist-threat”, accompanied by Orlando, all I think of is my hometown under assault and my need to make sure my family there is safe.
However, when I realized that one of the nightclubs I regularly frequented had been attacked, I was in shock. For the reach of my LGBTQ family is far more intricate and extensive than a spider’s web.
The deaths of 49 LGBTQ people and their allies in Orlando have added another dark mark to a long list of tragedies that have occurred across the United States. Some refer to this horrific event as the deadliest mass public shooting in American history. That statement, along with so many other matters dealing with these killings, is being debated by the world. But one thing I think we can all agree on is that such horrific events have been a “plague on all of our houses”.
Every day it seems as if the world is trying to find a way to connect with what happen on the evening of Sunday, June 12. For many Floridians, it is not difficult to find a connection or a friend that knew one or some of the people murdered.
In the aftermath of the killings, conversations abound. The stench of House Bill 2, which leaves members of the LGBTQ community without civil rights protections in North Carolina, has become a nationwide symbol of intolerance and injustice. For many African Americans, the subject of being Black and gay has become a more open topic of conversation. Muslims are unfairly being negatively portrayed, having to make infomercials to defend their heritage. Health professionals are focused on analyzing the mental state to a conflicted and confused man turned killer. And a certain politician, running for the highest office in the land, insists on making this tragedy about terrorist attacks while ignoring a need to reform our country’s gun laws.
No matter how you hold this tragedy in your head and examine it, there is some part of it that speaks to every person. I have thought about the deaths and injuries of those who attended the Pulse nightclub on that fateful night. I, like many others, knew someone who died that evening. He will truly be missed.
I believe the killer was deeply troubled and conflicted. I believe he hated his own reflection. I believe the killer’s hate fueled his contempt for the LGBTQ community. I believe the killer was lost within himself, lost in a perverted form of his religious beliefs and lost in his family dynamics which included spousal abuse and a mix of much more in between. Bottom line, it was hatred that guided his footsteps.
The sad part is that there are families out there who have lost a loved one to yet another senseless act of violence at the barrel of an assault rifle that belongs on a battlefield and not on America’s streets. And our inaction to pass sensible gun laws adds to this tragedy.
Love yourself and one another.
Naari Honor is a junior at Guilford College. She grew up eating oranges in Orlando and she loves Mickey Mouse.