Monday, 4 July 2016

Orlando United

When I think about Orlando the first word that comes to mind is home. For as long as I can remember it has always been my second home, somewhere that I have a made a million memories that I will treasure forever, a place that I have met new friends and old and made memories with them. 
Not once has it ever felt unsafe for me there until the recent Orlando attacks at Pulse Night Club on 12th June 2016. 

I was in Orlando when this awful tragedy happened, I woke up that morning to messages from friends at home telling me to stay away from the Orlando area, messages of concern asking if I was okay. 
It was 30mins away from where my family have a place. 
The same place I visit every year and I was there. 
It's mad now that I'm home looking back on it to think how close I was, to think he even scoped out Disney Springs. It was just so close to home. 

It was only a few months ago that I went to my first gay club in London for one of my best gay friends birthday, and it was one of the best nights of my life. The fact that everyone was so open and free and no one judged you. 
I've also been out on nights out in Orlando and the vibe is completely different to the UK everyone is so laid back and chilled out, people just go out in flip flops and shorts I absolutely love it. 
It never crossed my mind on either of those occasions that anything so terrible could happen. 

It's not until today when I watched BBC panorama programme on the Orlando Massacre that it really got to me. I was in pieces watching it and hearing about the awful events that unfolded that night by the survivors. I'm even in tears writing this post. 

But I didn't want this post to be depressing or sad. I wanted to share with people in the UK who maybe haven't been to Orlando, and the people who watched it unfold on the news and watched vigils happen through a screen that Orlando is United. 
It was amazing to see the whole city come together, never in my life have I seen people come together like they did. 
The fact people stood for 7 hours in the heat to give blood, the LGBT community is so strong here and the message it gave out was that the haters will not win. 

People lined up for hours to get the Orlando United t-shirts, literally hours. They were selling out faster than they could distribute. 
I got myself one, in a reminder to myself and others that everyone is equal, what happened that night will not change that love is love regardless of gender. 
It is something I feel very connected to through being there at the time and the whole vibe through out Orlando while I was there. 

A week after the shootings Magic Kingdom held their own vigil and it was the most beautiful thing I had seen. Photos by Attraction Magazine.

Two of the victims worked at Universal Studios on the Harry Potter ride. 
In the picture above work colleagues and  friends gathered to pay their respects in a way I had only seen done in the movies. 

I feel so devastated for the families who lost loved ones and for the innocent people who lost their lives that night, it could of been any of us. 
I only hope that the hate in the LGBT community ceases and that American get control of this gun crime before any more innocent lives are lost. 

Love is love is love is love is love.