Invocation at UCF Remembers, June 8, 2017
My invocation this evening will take the form of a reflection. I invite you to reflect with me as we pay tribute to those whose lives were snuffed out, and to those whose lives were forever altered, by Orlando’s worst-ever act of violence. I invite you to reflect with me on the full impact of what began in the early-morning hours of June 12, 2016.
The death toll is quantifiable. Forty-nine Pulse patrons gave their lives. An even larger number were physically injured. What’s more elusive, however, is the emotional damage. The pain to the families who lost loved ones. The agony of those who escaped the gunman only to face survivor’s guilt. The unwelcome shroud of fear that settled over Orlando’s LGBTQ community as they were reminded—yet again, but with far greater intensity—of their ever-present vulnerability. And as the story of this crime-against-humanity circled the globe, people everywhere—young and old, rich and poor, gay and straight—cringed, and lamented, and wept as they were robbed even further of an innocence that was already racing toward extinction.
But through even the darkest of clouds, small rays of sunshine at times defiantly break through. In the case of Pulse, our community pulled together in an unprecedented manner. Many in the faith community rethought their animosity and aversion toward those of other sexualities. The LGBTQ community itself became more connected, more supportive of each other, more organized as a force to be reckoned with.
While we will forever mourn the loss, we also can find consolation in every increment of insight and improvement—however small or incomplete—that has been brought to life in the wake of the Pulse tragedy.
In this season of memorializing those so devastated by what happened at Pulse, the challenge has been laid down for all of us to “honor them through action.” (Check it out online—“honor them through action.”) Indeed, what could we possibly do that would be more tangible? More practical? More beneficial? More inclusive?
We can never undo what was done. Scars from the horror of June 12, 2016, will remain. But we can seek to ensure that from the ashes of Pulse rises a Phoenix of positivity and progress.
Indeed, may we each resolve to truly “honor them through action.”
James Coffin is Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.