WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley posted the following on his Facebook account this weekend to comment on the terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando earlier this month. The attack claimed the lives of 49 victims, and at least 53 more people were injured.
WE ARE ORLANDO
Before heading out to Orlando for business, I wondered if I would ever be able to look at the city in the same way again. Following the worst mass shooting in the history of our country, I wondered if I could ever find joy in the themepark capital of the world again. Over the years, this city, its parks, its hotels, even its arena have meant so much to me and my family. I wondered if, in the wake of the shooting, the city might forever be redefined by the actions of that one individual who took 49 lives at the The Pulse nightclub. I wondered if Orlando could ever truly heal, and if there might be some small role for me in that process. I worried that I would conclude my work in Orlando, and return home without making a connection with this wounded city - or, even worse, without even trying.
Then, two days ago, at my hotel, I happened to meet Christopher Hansen, a survivor of the #PulseShooting, still wearing the metal placed around his neck earlier that afternoon by the governor of Florida, for his bravery in saving lives in the aftermath of the violence. His family, he told me, would be visiting a memorial for the victims that evening. I tagged along – and in doing so instantly connected to something bigger than myself; a sense of community and a spirit of healing. I felt it when I signed a giant #OrlandoStrong banner at the #GLBTCommunityCenter to let the #LGBT community (in Orlando and around the world) know that I stand with them. I felt it at the #PhillipsCenter for Performing Arts, where a homeless man offered me a lighter so that I might light candles to honor the 49 lives that had been senselessly taken. All around me were signs of hope – both literal and figurative. LOVE CONQUERS HATE. I truly believe it will. In the long run, I don't even think it will be close.
No, I won't ever be able to look at Orlando the same way again. I will never look at this city, and think of it simply as the themepark capital of the world. Instead, I will look at Orlando as the place that took the very worst that hate could dish out - and bested it through the sheer force of love. It's a city that refused to be defined by the formidable forces of intolerance, ignorance and fear - and instead chose a path of acceptance, inclusion and understanding. It's a place where someone like me - a heterosexual man from Long Island, who plays a hero on TV, can stand side-by-side with a real-life gay hero from Arkansas, and his dad, a career Air Force man from Wyoming - all of us talking talking with volunteers from the Billy Graham rapid response team in North Carolina, lighting candles with the help of a man with no home at all - each one of us proudly proclaiming #WeAreOrlando