We must see what hate did

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com

I was anx­ious. I kept up a steady con­ver­sa­tion with the re­porter next to me to keep my mind busy as the shut­tle bus rum­bled down I-4. What would it feel like to be there … like, ac­tu­ally there where it all hap­pened?

It was March and I was in Or­lando for an LGBT jour­nal­ists con­fer­ence. The day started with panel dis­cus­sions on the shoot­ing. We knew it would be a rough con­ver­sa­tion when con­fer­ence or­ga­niz­ers walked around putting boxes of Kleenex on all the ta­bles be­fore it be­gan.

The first panel con­sisted of re­porters who cov­ered the shoot­ing on the ground in Or­lando. Al­most ev­ery­one in the room, me in­cluded, re­ported on it from afar. So the re­porters on the panel were there to tell us what it was like. What did they see? What did they learn? None of them made it through their sto­ries with­out reach­ing for the Kleenex.

Af­ter that was an­other speaker, this time a sur­vivor, Ricardo Ne­gron-Almod­ovar. He told us elo­quently and thought­fully about be­ing bad­gered by re­porters like us.

“When we’re go­ing through that, we’re not think­ing about your dead­line. We don’t care about your dead­line,” he said. “It was too much. It was hon­estly too much.”

He also talked about how a lot of LGBT me­dia out­lets were re­port­ing that it was an at­tack on an LGBT club, but didn’t men­tion that it was Latin night, and how Latin me­dia out­lets re­ported that it was Latin night, but didn’t men­tion that it was an LGBT club. Peo­ple who shared one of his iden­ti­ties didn’t want to claim an­other of his iden­ti­ties. He ex­plained how that felt. I shook his hand and thanked him af­ter­ward.

That evening it was onto the shut­tle. We weren’t go­ing there to re­port, only to pay our re­spects. While I was busy chat­ting with my seat­mate, I no­ticed we were get­ting off the exit. I looked out the left side of the bus just as we pulled up to the main drag – S. Or­ange Ave. When I turned to my right, there it was. That black sign. The white font. Pulse.

All the chat­ter turned quickly to com­plete si­lence. We pulled up in front of the club and got out. A gate wrapped around the en­tire prop­erty, with ban­ners cov­er­ing it so no one can see any­thing but the roof. Cov­er­ing the ban­ners were mes­sages from peo­ple all over the world. “Love from Ger­many.” “Hap­pi­ness can be found even in the dark­est of times if one re­mem­bers to turn on the light.” “Be your­self. Al­ways.”

I’ve had a lot of time to re­flect on what it’s like to stand 20 feet from where 49 peo­ple were killed and an­other 58 wounded. My main take­away is that I’m glad I went.

We must see what hate did. We need to go there whether it’s an LGBT club in Or­lando, a sky­scraper in New York or a church in Charleston. We have to go there to pay our re­spects, re­ally feel what hap­pened there and give our­selves time to think about it.

It won’t make a mass killing any less tragic if we don’t go. But it can def­i­nitely open up a door of in­sight pre­vi­ously closed.

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