When our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, and my office was evacuated and sent home, I stepped outside into the brilliant blue-skied day of our backyard and felt haunted. Everything I did suddenly seemed small and insignificant when the scope and atrocity of what had just happened started to sink in. I went back inside and did the only thing I’ve done when nothing else seems to matter: I wrote. To my family, to my friends, to the people who mattered most to me, I wrote. Simple letters, letters telling them how much they meant to me, and how this was the only thing I could think of to do in such a tragic time. I guess that’s what I’m doing now.
This weekend was a celebration of LGBT Pride in many cities across the country. We attended a couple of events, and even in the face of torrential downpours we made an appearance at Albany’s Gay Pride celebration. When it was all done, I looked at Twitter and FaceBook and Instagram, and all I saw was love and happiness and joy. It was a rare and welcome break from political fighting and exposed hatred, the kind of day when all is rainbows and giddiness and smiles. On Sunday, I woke up, still on that Pride high, to the news that a shooter armed with an assault rifle had killed 50 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando. The shooter’s father apparently said that his son was disgusted by the sight of two men kissing. It is now the worst shooting in American history. Think about that. More than Newtown, CT. More than Aurora, CO. More than Columbine, CO.
As I struggle to find meaning in all of this, when clearly there may be none other than simple hatred, I wonder what, if anything, we can do about it. Gun control laws? Insuring that homophobic leaders don’t get elected? Supporting laws that continue to push for equality? Yes to all of that, but for me it begins on a smaller scale.
Whenever something like this happens, the first thing I want to do is hide and retract from the world. To give up on everything that makes me, and others, so happy. That shooter wanted to stop two guys from kissing because he didn’t like it. He would likely find offense at every other post on this site. And though my voice is small and limited, and the shooter is already dead, the best thing I know how to do is write posts like this. He tried to silence us, and so I shout louder.
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The world is violent and mercurial – it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love – love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love. ~ Tennessee Williams