June 12, 2016 tragedy hit Orlando, and the nation, when a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others inside the Pulse nightclub. The deadliest act of violence since September 11, 2001 happened in our community. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer stated “We will be defined by how we respond, how we treat each other.” Oh how we have responded! From numerous vigils, not only in Orlando, but in cities across the nation and in other countries, to blood drives, interfaith services and several memorials. Many court staff attended the vigils and participated in other events to support the victims and our community.
In addition, fund drives (GoFundMe and OneOrlando) have raised millions of dollars for the victims, a record for GoFundMe. Love and support have been overwhelming in this city we love. It was so fitting that a beautiful rainbow appeared over the city during a vigil held at Lake Eola, attended by 50,000.
Last Saturday during a run through my neighborhood, I was struck with the number of signs placed in the yards of my neighbors. Some homemade signs, some purchased signed. The messages on the signs reflect how this community in the Middle District of Florida responded – “Orlando Strong,” “Orlando One City, One Heart,” “Orlando Love Wins,” “Orlando United, We Stand Together As One Community.” The signs were in the yards of the elderly, in the yards of the young, in the yards of the single and the married, and in the yards of those with children and teenagers. I couldn’t help but choke up seeing how our community has responded. I have never been prouder that my Court is in the city that stands united. Orlando is called “The City Beautiful” and the response to the tragedy truly demonstrates how fitting that title is. Words in our mission statement also came to mind “treat everyone with dignity, integrity, and respect.” May we always live by those words, may we always stand united, may we always love.