United We Stand

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“To be honest, the noise was so loud, it sounded like it was on top of me. Your first reaction is to get down. It literally felt like the gunman was next to me. The other bartender ran toward me and we were both lying down, but there was still a question if it was fake. Some of us thought it might be fireworks.” – Michael Belvedere, also known as Axel Andrews.

What you just read, is the description of the start of America’s deadliest shooting in U.S. history by one of its survivors. On the early morning of the 12th of June a man came into the gay club Pulse, located in Orlando, and started shooting with an AR-15 (a semi-automatic machine gun). 49 people were killed and 53 people were wounded in the event.

The event took about three hours. Survivors of the event were interviewed and most of them state that they were filled with fear and thought this would be their last night on earth.

“I kept my ear toward the door, I still had the chair in my hand the whole time. I heard a glass break. Eventually the police…they were just talking to me, I was giving them diagrams of how to find us. And then eventually the police officers got people out in the dressing room across from us. I could hear the door open, get them out, and 30 minutes after that, we gave them a diagram to get to us, and they found a back wall behind us where there was an AC window unit mounted in cement. The police officer pushed it through, we caught it, and we all crawled out through the window.” – Michael Belvedere

One of the victim’s’ mother shared the texts her son sent her before he was killed. She said her son texted her to call the police. She responded that she was in fact calling them. A couple of moments later, she received the text “Call them mommy. Now.”

As you can imagine, this night was nothing but horror. This was a pure hate-crime. The whole world feels for the LGBT community. The amount of casualties made this the biggest hate-crime in US and LGBT history. Many brothers and sisters of the community were lost that night. In the 21st century, it is still possible to be treated negatively as a minority. The LGBT community and other minorities all fear that one day an act of hate will be struck upon their community.

The gay community has come a very long way from being pathologized to having equal marriage rights. An example of one of those obstacles they faced is the Stonewall Riots in 1969. But unfortunately, the journey and battle towards equality and non-violence is anything but finished. Hate is a very ugly thing and it has brought nothing but destruction upon mankind. People killing people in this kind of way has been going on for a long time. But hatred towards others should never be an option. Instead, we should focus on love and empathy, as the world has towards the LGBT community in the past few days.

Only to name a few examples, the Eiffel Tower lit up in rainbow colors with an American flag. The City Hall and Grand Palace in Brussels did the same thing. The Stadhuis in Rotterdam flew the pride flag to pay their respects. The world feels for what happened. And that’s perhaps the ‘best’ thing, in a very twisted way, of this all: an act of hate and violence turns up uniting people more than ever, feeling for each other and focussing on that love is love and we don’t need hate.

The LGBT community is now focussing its attention on the Second Amendment of the United States. Why? Because the Second Amendment makes it possible for people to buy guns at Walmart and start shooting, to state it very simplistic. In the past, too many domestic acts of terrorism have happened in the United States because of this possibility to buy guns. And now the gay men and women of America are going to make sure this will never happen again. And you know what? They have been through a lot – these queens know how to handle and come out on the other side stronger. If anyone can succeed, they can.

My message after all of this? I was very angry and sad when I heard about this horrendous tragedy. I admit, I cried because this is very close to home for me and I was a bit confused about my own safety, how weird it may sound. But in the end, I shall spread the message I preached in this article – love is love, and there is no place for hate. And now, whenever I see a LGBT-member on the streets, I feel connected and a sense of protection. United we stand. As Beyonce sings,

“I’m telling these tears, “go and fall away, fall away”, may the last one burn into flames. Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move. Freedom, cut me loose! Singin’, freedom! Freedom! Where are you? Cause I need freedom too! I break chains all by myself, won’t let my freedom rot in hell.”

By Rocher Koendjbiharie

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