‘Mommy I love you’

I like to think of myself as some one who is mentally tough. I’m certainly not physically tough, so long ago 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.

Mommy I love you.jpgAgain — 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 — likeEddie Justice.jpg 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 Justice 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

After Orlando, maybe there is hope

Well, it’s now been some 36 hours since the tragedy in Orlando, and a lot of the information that we did not know yesterday is starting to come out.

  • We now know that the attacker, Omar Mateen, 29, born in New York to Afghan parents, pledged allegiance to ISIS during the attack.
  • We know he had previously been strongly irritated when he saw two men kissing in public in Miami.
  • We know it took police three hours to storm into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando to Pulse Nightclub.jpgend the standoff.
  • We know the attacker used the same type of military-style assault rifle that was used in Newtown, Conn., Roseburg, Ore., Aurora, Colo. and San Bernardino, Calif.
  • We know that the FBI had investigated Mateen for several months for his possible ties to terrorism, but did not find enough evidence to take action.
  • It’s also being reported that Mateen was witnessed inside the Pulse nightclub on previous occasions, and that he even used gay dating apps.

As much as I wanted to avoid reading and watching news about this atrocity, I knew that doing so would only feed into ignorance. If I wanted to engage in any rational conversation about what happened, then it’s important that I know the facts so I’m not spewing misinformation. Because that helps nobody.

So that’s my first piece of advice. Don’t make blind assumptions. Strive to find out the truth. It’s one thing to remain ignorant, but it’s worse to spread your ignorance on others.

Yesterday I may have been slightly guilty of that. I lamented our nation’s tendency to divide during times of tragedy.

But maybe I spoke too soon.

Eiffel Tower

Because, unbelievably, on Monday, there were inspiring moments throughout the globe that showed that maybe, just maybe, there is hope.

First, there was the amazing response of all the people who flocked to blood banks throughout Orlando to donate to the injured victims.

Then there was the vigil at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, an iconic backdrop in the history of the Gay Civil Rights Movement in America after police stormed the building in 1969 because it was serving as a safe haven for gay couples.

And there were vigils across the world, from Canada to England to Germany Israel to Turkey to Hong Kong. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was lit to reflect LGBT colors.

And then there was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s heartfelt and touching sonnet he read aloud at the Tony Awards on Sunday night in response to the shooting.

So I retract some of my post from yesterday. I was understandably frustrated. But perhaps it was too soon to give up on humanity.

Maybe there is hope for us yet.