I had no idea what was happening at first when I was jolted out of bed Monday morning by frantic calls, texts, and posts. But soon, that word “again” kept ringing in my head. I thought back to the missed calls, frantic texts, and Facebook statuses from trapped friends… and I thought, it is happening again in Las Vegas.
Sixteen months ago, those posts were mine. “Hiding in the bathroom. Can’t find my friends,” I wrote. And now at least 58 people are dead and over 500 injured in Las Vegas, after a shooting at a country music festival.
And though over a year has passed since the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, where 49 people were killed, including my closest friend, this new horror from Las Vegas brought me back to that same sense of dread. I can feel the pain in survivors’ stories. I ache with grief for the mothers and fathers awaiting word from their children. I can remember the wall-to-wall news coverage.
I have tried to forget waiting for my best friend’s name and photo to appear on a list of victims. Today, all those terrors are back.
The Orlando community is hurting today, for Las Vegas and for ourselves. A wound that had barely begun to heal has been ripped open and laid bare by a man apparently armed like a soldier. As it did so many months ago, gun violence is again tearing at the seams of the country — and this is felt so acutely by those affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting.
To the people impacted in Las Vegas: we love you. I love you. If I have learned any lesson from the dark road to recovery from mass violence, it is that we all need love more than we would like to admit. Stand together. Link arms. Embrace. And know that while you begin the work of healing a deep wound, Orlando is standing with you.
To my friends and neighbors in Orlando, I urge you to engage in self-care. Take breaks from the coverage. Stop refreshing your Twitter feed for today. Visit a counselor. Surround yourself with the love and warmth that protected you the day after the shooting. Today is a day for fortifying your soul; our brothers and sisters in Las Vegas will need strong shoulders to lean on.
And to the country: get fed up. Demand that something be done to save our neighborhoods. When is it enough? When it is in your backyard? When you wake up to the frantic texts of fear? When it is your brother’s photo haunting you from the TV screen? While this community heals, send your thoughts and prayers. And when you are done kneeling in prayer, stand up ready to fight. Just as I did last year, the people of Las Vegas need action now. They need change. They deserve a country where we rally to their sides and refuse to bow to hate.