It has now been 3-plus weeks since the horrific Pulse shooting here in Orlando, my home town, and as more information comes to light… tweets, texts, conversations, reflections, etc… the finger pointing has begun. It’s minimal so far, but instead of introspection and seeing how we might do things differently in the future, the accusations that this agency or that person could have done more to save lives is finding its way into our news feeds. We already know hindsight is 20/20; please don't bury our saviors in the fallout.
I have wanted to write this since 3am on June 12, and every day since, but it took awhile to even begin to formulate the right words; there was simply emotion and incredible sadness hindering my fingers.
I was a midwife and doula for 32 years, holding lives in my hands many times, resuscitating babies and stemming the tide of postpartum hemorrhage in mothers. Yet I have but a whiff of what our First Responders (and others named below) experienced the night of June 12 and all these days since. I have tried to think of a way to thank these people, have an intense urge to seek each one out and hold them close to my heart while whispering, “Thank you,” over and over again.
The scope of actions from those that were there… are there… for my gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and straight family, Latinx or Anglo, (for they are family to all of us) is enormous. The incredible amount of love, care, detail, sweat, tears and even shock must be acknowledged. As a care provider myself, I listened to the incredible unfolding of the hospital staff’s descriptions of their work as the waves of dying and injured flooded through their doors. I sat through their first press conference with survivor Angel Colon front and center, enraptured, yet sobbing with gratitude and awe at their choreographed and executed dance to save lives.
I know I could never begin to thank every agency that pulled together, but I need to try. Each profession or organization I list is a thread in the whole, beautiful tapestry that is #OrlandoStrong.
Please feel my overwhelming love and gratitude… and know there are thousands and thousands of others who feel the same. You people, my Superheroes, are a gift to humanity. Never, never let the finger pointing touch you. Do not claim that bureaucratic static that will certainly grow to a cacophony before too long. Stay true to your knowledge that you did everything right, you saved so many. You did the very best any of us could ever have done. No, you did far, far better than most of us.
Thank you a hundred million times plus 102 to those mentioned below. If I have forgotten you, just add yourself to the list; it was merely an ignorant oversight. You, too, belong here.
Thank you to:
- The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.
- Orlando's amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.
- Local law enforcement agencies throughout Orlando, especially the Belle Isle Officers.
- The Special investigators who are still at work.
- Our National FBI personnel who keep finding needles in the acres of haystacks.
- The entire Orlando Fire Department, especially Lt. Davis O’Dell Jr., Orlando firefighter paramedics Carlos Tavarez and Joshua Granada, all of Fire Station 5.
- All the tireless Paramedics who used their minds and skills, even when the solutions were unorthodox, to help save lives.
- All the Ambulance agencies that responded and tended to the wounded while getting them to the hospital as fast as possible.
- All the EMS personnel who had many roles to fulfill in saving lives.
- All 911 Dispatch Operators... my heart aches for you wondrous folks who comforted the injured and dying throughout the several-hour ordeal. You gave genuine love to those that died while you were on the line with them and helped keep others alive until help arrived. Your professionalism and note-taking will not be forgotten as the information continues being disclosed. I send you special wishes for emotional and spiritual healing from this horrific experience.
- Orlando Regional Medical Center Hospital, especially for their readiness drills that helped set them up for success with extreme situations such as this. No words can possibly express my pride in your response, care, and skill when you were least expecting it.
- The ORMC Trauma Team, all those years of study, school and thousands of hours working in the hospital and learning specialized skills culminated on June 12, 2016, saving untold lives.
- The Emergency Room Team, thank you for always being ready for anything. You were there. You were there for all of us that night.
- The dozens and dozens of Doctors - ER, OR & ICU - for utilizing everything you've ever learned (and things you surely had only heard about) to save so many. There really are not enough words to offer my gratitude and love for you all.
- The Orthopedics teams... your amazing skills working with the back and muscles was most assuredly crucial that night. I am sure you saved so many from being paralyzed with your gift during surgeries. Thank you so veyr much.
- The Microsurgeons, your extremely specialized skills surely saved so many from bodies that would be unable to feel or move properly once healed.
- The Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeons, your specialization was crucial with the horrific injuries to the chests of too many. Thank you for keeping so many hearts pumping.
- The beloved Nurses - Trauma, ER, Triage, OR, ICU & Surgical Recovery... it is beginning to sound trite, but I promise, I am absolutely speechless with gratitude for your gifts of kindness and skilled caring. Nothing that night (and since) could have been done without you incredible human beings. You are the Angels of Mercy.
- All the Surgeons of an endless variety, thank you for specializing in your individual areas and to the General Surgeons, thank you for attending to the multiple types of injuries that night. Thank you all for remaining strong and focused during the assembly line of cases that surely seemed neverending at times. Your hands, in the most direct way, saved so many lives that night. Thank you.
- Residents - who used every moment of training to step in wherever you could.
- OneBlood blood bank personnel including Blood Collection sites, thank you for assuring there was ample blood at the hospitals for all the cases that needed it. Thank you, too, for opening up sites on Sunday to collect blood and organize getting that blood back to those whose lives depended on it.
- The Phlebotomy team, your job had to have been incredibly challenging that chaotic night of terror, finding veins and arteries, keeping the vials organized and then running the thousands of stat samples to the lab, over and over again... thank you for your skills and dedication.
- The Radiology team - your job was infinitely complicated by the sheer numbers of people working on each person, yet crucial to examining the patient in a life-saving manner. Thank you for knowing how to peek inside the bodies that needed so much help.
- The Respiratory Services team who were called into action to keep massively injured people breathing, either from the assault or the incredible shock and fear they were experiencing. You all are wondrous healers for those who cannot breathe.
- To Environmental Services, who were said to have cleaned and set up a room in 30-45 seconds; miraculous! It is challenging enough to keep things pristine and safe from cross-contamination under normal circumstances, but that you worked with all that blood, tissue, drapes, gauze, tubes, gloves, and then cleaning beds, rails, the floor and emptying the contaminated trash while patients were waiting for a place to lay... doing all of this in mere seconds, really is worthy of immense gratitude.
- To you amazing Anesthesiologists and Nurse Anesthetists... while I know you are highly-trained for emergencies and working with people in dire pain or unable to communicate their medical history, I am sure this night multiplied the need for your skills and knowledge dozens-fold. That you were able to anesthetize our precious friends and family so they might be saved under such circumstances is a miracle to behold. Immense gratitude.
- To ORMC Laboratory Services, the tasks thrown at you June 12 and the days immediately after had to have been enormous, yet you were there as the backbone for the entire health and safety of the injured, getting blood to whomever needed it, organizing the lab results so all providers could coordinate proper care, the list surely continues endlessly. Thank you for your amazing skill and meticulous attention to detail under extreme duress.
- To the Other Orlando hospitals that freely gave a seemingly endless supply of personnel and supplies, especially Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Florida Hospital who responded immediately to the call for help.
- To the Orlando Medical Examiners, especially Joshua Stephany for your immense sensitivity in keeping that madman separate from our lost souls. The unbelievable task you all gently and respectfully undertook is appreciated beyond words.
- To the Physical Therapists who began working with the survivors almost immediately so they could have as full a life as possible once they are recovered, thank you for your skills and knowledge of the body and its nuanced possibilities through movement and touch.
- To the Chaplains of the Orlando Police Department and the others around Orlando, thank you for rushing to the spiritual aid of our First Responders, the families of the injured and dying and praying with the mass of disbelieving friends and relatives in their moments of spiritual questioning and anger towards God. Thank you for your love and patience with so much inner pain.
- To our Mental Health Therapists & Psychiatrists who flooded the different locations where families waited for news of their loved ones, knowing crisis counseling was an immediate need and you provided it, with zero regard for payment of any kind except knowing you were helping someone in emotional pain. Mental health needs will reverberate for years and years for so many of us, so thank you in advance for all you will do for everyone as time unfolds the mental and emotional anguish of this horrific night.
- To the Pharmacists at ORMC, your enormous task of providing the correct medications for scores of critically injured patients has not been overlooked. Filling order after order in the middle of the night had to have been daunting, yet when you, too, called for help, it came in in droves. Thank you for your education and extreme attention to detail.
- To the LGBTQ Center of Orlando, who immediately opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to talk, be held, cry or mourn. No words can express my gratitude for all you have done, are doing and will continue to do for our incredibly awesome and diverse community. May our Center grow as much as our hearts have for you after this disaster.
- To the Cell Phone companies for keeping those injured and dying in touch with loved ones and 911 operators.
- To those inside Pulse that struggled to save lives as the horror unfolded, who shielded others with your bodies, who comforted the injured and dying as you hid anywhere you could, who held friends as they bled to death in your arms... no amount of tears and thanks can explain how full my heart is for you beautiful people. Your unspeakable pain will never be forgotten or taken for granted. You are incredible human beings who were in a horrible situation, but your soaring kindnesses outshone any evil that man tried to snuff out. Bless all of you.
- To the civilians who just happened to be in the area and helped the injured, comforted the dying and transported anyone they could to the hospital, thank you. Clearly, we needed you there that night.
- To the Hampton Inn & Suites for opening their doors and hearts in the immediate aftermath so survivors, family and friends had a place to congregate as they learned the fate of their loved ones.
- To the Translators who offered their love and gift of language to those who would have been lost without you... especially Eddie Meltzer who had the job of telling families their loved ones' fate as well as helping them through the shock of learning their child/mother/family member/father/friend was also gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans/queer. Your grace under pressure will always be appreciated.
- Special note to the Religious Community... Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many denominations of Christians... who pulled together to pray and offer support to all who needed it. In the days afterwards, church services were held to assist the mourners who found solace in religious healing.
One national speaker, Victoria Kirby York of the National LGBTQ Task Force, spoke at a local church service and she must be held aloft and applauded. In a sea of religions not understanding the LGBTQ community, Ms. York stunned everyone with her ability to use Scripture to affirm the LGBTQ experience and right to love who we choose. Her words were a spiritual salve for so many who have been alienated by the religions in our neighborhoods and the policy-makers' pens.
To the hypocrites among the religious folks (you know who you are), I hope you are able to rectify the doublespeak you drooled off your tongues after our tragedy because our LGBTQ family keeps dying because of your hate and damning judgment. It needs to stop. Now.
Ongoing Love & Support
While the above list, surely not complete, reflects the care and love from only the first day or two post-massacre, I could continue for another three days thanking the multitudes of restaurants, airlines, hotels, businesses, those that brought Comfort Dogs to love on those that needed a tender doggie hug, and then the ongoing monetary donations to the Pulse GoFundMe Page.
I must also thank the rest of the United States and the World for their endless support through vigils and moments of silence for our 49 beloved murdered friends and 53 recovering victims.
Please take a moment to offer thanks to everyone I've mentioned and those I have forgotten to name.
And lastly, please remember the families of those who have died and been injured. Their lives are forever changed. May they find at least a moment of peace through all of our love.
To our most precious doves, we will never forget your names or who you are:
Amanda Alvear, 25
Antonio D. Brown, 30
Luis D. Conde, 39
Cory J. Connell, 21
Tevin E. Crosby, 25
Juan R. Guerrero, 22
Paul T. Henry, 41
Frank Hernandez, 27
Eddie J. Justice, 30
Kimberly Morris, 37
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Jerald A. Wright, 31