I like to think of myself as some one who is mentally tough. I’m certainly not physically tough, so long ago I decided I needed to find some way to showcase my inner strength.
I try not go let too much get to me. I don’t complain often when things don’t go my way. And I try to suck it in when I’m feeling any type of pain.
Who knows, perhaps it’s some type of defense mechanism to shield myself from the horrors that can exist in the world.
But whatever the reason, one consequence of my desire to exude mental toughness is I don’t show a lot of emotion. And when I see or hear about something sad, my first instinct is to try to ignore it or change the subject.
Again — probably a defense mechanism. A psychologist could have a field day with me if I ever saw one.
And that’s sort of how I wanted to deal with the Orlando shooting. To stay away from it all. I’d read a few articles and listen to some news broadcasts just to keep up to date, but otherwise, I’d think about other things. It’s much easier to go about life that way than to deal with the sadness of 49 lives tragically cut short.
But there was one item that found its way to me today.
“Mommy I love you.”
Those were among the last words expressed by Eddie Justice, 30, as he texted his mom at 2:06 a.m. while he hid in a bathroom at the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning in Orlando. He and his mother engaged in a brief conversation for a few more minutes, and then the texts stop coming.
Eddie was shot and killed.
And every time I think about it, I want to cry. Mommy I love you.
Those four words offer no more somber reminder that these were 49 people who — like all of us — had a life, had friends, had a family, and had a mother. They had people that they loved and they were loved back. And now they’re gone from one senseless act of violence.
In his waning moments, all Eddie Butler wanted to do was tell his mother how much he loved her. “Call them mommy,” he texted minutes later, referring to the police. “I’m gonna die.”
If that isn’t a stark reminder of how fragile we are in this world, or how tenuous the difference is between life and death, then I don’t know what is.
But in the end, despite the horror, love was on his mind.
Mommy I love you.
I will not hide away from Orlando. As hard as I can try, I will remember every day of my life that we lost 49 good people on June 12, 2016.
In addition to Eddie Justice, here the are the names of the 48 other victims. To forget them is to shame them.
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old