Guest column by Joe Ricci of West Orange
Waking up to the tragic massacre of 50 people in Orlando hit the people in the LGBT community like a sledgehammer. The senseless killing in a space where people get to "be themselves" away from judgment or ridicule is particularly hard for us.
TAPinto is a hyper-local site.....we cover local news. Although this happened in Orlando, it is related to life here. I can't let the day pass without some comment about how this event affects all of us.
West Orange is a very welcoming community, and for the most part, is one of acceptance. I can't be Pollyanna and say no one cares if you are LGBT, but I can say it's not an issue in most cases. When my husband and I went for our marriage license at Town Hall, we were congratulated no less enthusiastically than any other couple getting married.
West Orange and surrounding towns have an active gay community, one which is involved in almost every aspect of life from parenting to business to government. Sunday, June 12 was Maplewood's North Jersey Pride festival, the type of gathering in this month where LGBT people have a party. For some, these gatherings may be to celebrate the acceptance we feel. For other, its the recognition of rights that have been recognized and codified. Some are boisterous parades, and others are family gatherings with food and music.
That's what those people in Orlando were doing: celebrating. Like any other group celebrating heritage or nationality, this carnage happened because people were out at night at a party to just be together with people just like them.
If the public learned nothing from 9-11, it learned that living life after something terrible happens is the only way to go on. But is also taught that, in the end, attacks like this often make people stop thinking of their differences, even temporarily, and simply think of themselves as Americans: an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
The news cycle will move on from this in a few days. But at the Tony Awards, a joyous celebration of theater, one of the night's big winners, Frank Langella, (Best Lead Actor in a Play), could not let the day's events pass, tossed his acceptance speech and gave these words of encouragement to Orlando, and in doing so, to all of us who care about each other:
“I found some words that will mean more to you than a litany of names,” he said. “When something bad happens we have three choices. We can let it define us, we can let it destroy us or we can let it strengthen us. Today in Orlando we had a hideous dose of reality. I urge you Orlando to be strong. I’m standing in a room full of the most generous human beings on earth and we will be with you every step of the way.”
-- Frank Langella, June 12,
70th Annual Tony Awards, New York
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