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In grammar, a period marks a full stop of an idea or though or action. Early Sunday morning, 49 lives came abruptly to a full stop.

Facebook doesn’t like it that I can’t list my hometown, but moving around so much growing up, I don’t have one. I had no idea what city to put on my name tag at Disney because I never felt a sense of belonging at any of the places I’ve lived. But living in Orlando the past 4 years has taught me what having a home feels like because of the friends I’ve made and the memories I share with them.

I didn’t know any of the victims personally. Nonetheless, I’ve spent the last 2 days in a haze of confusion and sadness because each victim who had their life stolen was known and loved by someone. Each victim who continues to breathe and fight for their life will be forever altered by this tragedy.

I feel helpless and like I’m paralyzed face up on the shore as wave after wave beats against my body. I can’t imagine what the people directly affected by this loss must feel. I struggle to find breath between the cries for policy change or the cries from people simply trying to use this tragedy for their own ends.

But 49 lives were taken. They each had a name and a beautiful story that ended far too soon. Countless more lives were forever changed because of wounds either physical or emotional or both in many cases. Why couldn’t we at least have taken a moment just to cry?

When I heard this tragic news, I was in Los Angeles taking a screenwriting class because I had finally worked up the courage to chase my dream of writing stories. I cried. I fought back tears all day as I was exploring a city that I had always dreamed of visiting. I cried because 49 people don’t get to chase their dreams anymore.

I dream of telling great stories, so I love words. They have power to build bridges or create chasms. I’ve always wanted to use words to inspire and encourage people to hope and to love and to make them laugh. But words fail me right now because I can’t understand why I still have the privilege to wrestle with finding and arranging them in a way that will make a positive impact.

That privilege to create was stolen from 49 people who were just like me. People looking for love and meaning and belonging–many of whom I’m sure could’ve strung words together more poignantly than I ever will.

Their lives were ended by a horrific act of hate and violence, but I don’t believe their voices were silenced. What one evil man meant for destruction did destroy many lives. But the outpouring of love and kindness shown to the victims and their families and the city that I call home screams that with love we can overcome all the things that try to divide us. Evil will not win.

That’s what I love about people. We have the unique ability to imagine our future and the great responsibility to make it a better one. May the choices we make and the words that we use honor those we have lost and support the ones that are still here with us. Together we can strive to create a future filled with hope and love.

Love is a choice and not usually the easy one. May we have the courage to love. Then hopefully one day we will see a period placed on the evil that births these acts of violence against our brothers and sisters.

 

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