June 12, 2016.
That fateful Sunday morning, I had the peculiar experience of waking up at 6 in the morning in a wonderful mood. I usually woke up around nine, and with a vicious attitude. I turned on the coffee for the household, opened the sliding glass door, lit a cigarette standing in the morning light. Such a beautiful morning in South Carolina. I step back inside, pour my coffee, and after flipping on the news, I sit down.
I didn’t understand the words at first.
For a few moments, I legitimately could not understand the language the newscaster spoke. Then, I was furious — is that what morning news does in 2016, get their jollies out of pranks at our expense?! Then came multiple cell phone video clips of cops at the scene.
I had never in my life felt so much loss, so much despair, so much hopelessness. Not just mine, but thousands, hundreds of thousands, hundreds of millions of people. The shock, the absolute blinding shock of realizing a mass, planned attack actually happened to the queer and trans* community.
It was the single most sickening moment in my life. It’s something I can’t bear, even to this day.
I will never forget the image of Christine Leinonen, on-site directly after the Pulse massacre, a 4 a.m. interview with mussed-up hair, begging for information on her son Chris Leinonen and his partner. Oh, the heart-rending devastation when I watched her tell the world that neither lived.
And then another mother I will always remember with a heavy heart, who received a crushing “mommy I need you” text. In my life, I have had to send a few messages like that, and the fear on both sides is one no one should ever have to hold.
I remember the inability to breathe when the camera showed her son’s texts to her, telling her he was going to die.
Finally, the one that destroyed me for months on a personal level: The mother who died trying to shield the son who had invited her out for a fun night, and the devastation upon learning that even he did not survive.
The attack on Pulse Nightclub in the early hours of June 12, 2016, never should have happened. We must all actively work, and defend one another, so we show those who wish to abuse us and others, this is not acceptable, and this will not be tolerated.
For the 49 who lost their lives in a single night simply because they were trying to have fun, it is up to us to stop this — the entire queer and trans* community, and our allies. We will fight these injustices.
“We are Orlando strong.” —Brandon Parsons