After checking in at the seaside hotel with valet parking and a concierge,
I go over to the desk to ask not about the best place to eat or what to see
but where and if there’s a vigil here tonight,
There has been a terrible shooting today, you see,
Terrible, he says, I know, I heard, I will see what I can find.
Tonight. 5 blocks south. 8 p.m. The Art Museum steps.
I go off to do what tourists do.
I lay out my clothes in long bureau drawers.
I hang up my pants and brush my teeth.
I take off to find the food court and a table by the window
where I watch families pose by the waterfall –
black, white and brown, Asian, Indian,
bright red jackets and straw hats,
scarves and turbans, suits and ties,
they’ve come from everywhere.
Two little Indian brothers stand at attention arms straight at their sides wearing wide grins.
The older puts his arm around his little brother.
The little brother smiles, grabs his brother, squeezes him tight.
Their father laughs, snaps a picture.
My family met here years ago to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary, a family cruise to Alaska.
We’d taken pictures by the waterfall.
Commented, my how Erin has grown and how good Warren is at math,
all it has taken to bring us together, and here in this place.
I smile, remembering this.
The crowd gathers near the steps on smooth brown dirt where the grass used to be.
Eight men stand at the top of the marble steps with rainbow flags.
The Canadian flag at the end is decked out in rainbow colors.
The men silent and still.
The flags flutter in the wind.
I stop, alone, across the busy street.
I see the flags, the dirt, the small crowd gathering.
I do not wipe away my tears.
I wonder on the way of grief.
I wonder how it lies hidden until it comes and surprises you.
I wonder where these tears have been hiding all day.
It has been a long day.
Driving into church this morning I’d heard snippets of news.
Another mass shooting, Orlando, a nightclub.
50 presumed dead, 53 wounded, not releasing names.
They’ll bring more updates as the news come in.
I complain to my colleague Catherine about the absurdity of the morning news,
hearing all this between fashion trends and the morning puzzle,
hearing all this like entertainment, like curiosity, we ingest over bites of our morning cereal.
But something heartbreaking has happened…again
and the world just goes on except for those for whom it won’t,
except for those for whom today changes everything.
I move on to my own duties and morning questions,
Where is the meeting? and What is the agenda?
An update on the child in hospital,
a stiff shoulder and a sore neck, the need for a ride.
And Yes, I say, It’s good to be back. And it is.
Back to slide through the emails,
Scan a letter to the LGBT community from colleagues in Florida.
I still do not know.
I still do not understand all that has happened.
On the way to the sanctuary I remember the vigil this Friday.
The name of the church escapes me.
I google the name on my cell phone during the announcements.
That’s right. Emanuel. It was Mother Emanuel. Last year. A year ago this week.
I wonder how we pray for this, for all of this.
Driving north, more snippets of news –
A gay nightclub, Latino Night, a young man under surveillance and known to authorities.
Another assault-style rifle, another shooting, eight high-profile shootings since last July.
It’s all the same.
The same old, same old, story again.
There are sweet people here. Sweet people who turn and hug, kiss and greet one another.
Sweet people who have come off these busy streets at the close of a day to find their place here
to find each other,
to mourn, to remember,
to unite, be strong.
How are you doing? he asks his friend.
Oh alright, you know, it’s one of those days. I woke up this morning to the news.
Yah, it’s one of those times you have no idea what to say or do.
This is one thing we can. We bind together. We can show our lives matter.
Yah, half, three-quarters as much as others. Three-quarters. I can live with that.
I never thought this would happen.
I ask where they got the candles.
They walk with me over to the reflection pool.
I am handed a white candle in a red plastic cup.
Members of the Coast Salish tribe welcome us to their land.
The microphone squeals.
How’s this? This?
The microphone squeals again.
We cannot hear you.
Yes, now we can.
There are words. Lots of words and a few that I remember.
A gay Syrian refugee –
When people think of terrorism
People think of people who look like me.
This is not terrorism.
Joan E., a drag queen in a bright red dress, towers over the little assembly of speakers –
In the weeks and months to come the dialogue about what happened today will change.
This will not: what will not change is what happened today to the families and friends who
lost someone today. For them, their lives are changed forever.
We wonder what we can do. This is one thing we can.
She smiles at the Syrian refugee.
Do not confuse what happened today with anyone’s religion or the color of their skin.
That we must never do.
The crowd cheers.
We raise our candles high.
A young woman in a bow tie, and black and white tuxedo shirt, named Andy stands by Joan –
I woke this morning and knew I needed to do something.
I am so moved that all of you came, that all of us, a thousand or so, on such short notice.
I want us to say the names, to repeat the names, the names we know so far.
She says the names, we repeat the names.
Can we say his name?
Do we have to say his name?
Do we have to remember Omar too?
Do we have to remember him as well?
Who are we if we do?
Who are we if we do not?
I want us to hold some silence.
We hold silence.
Tears running down my face.
I want us to yell for all the words we do not know how to say.
I want us to yell for all the things we are reaching and striving for.
I want us to fill the city with cries.
We roar again.
It feels good.
We make a beautiful noise together, she says.
There are pleas for volunteers and how we can give back.
Reminders of the Pride Parade and how we must be together.
I am weary of announcements and words.
I want silence and songs.
I want benedictions and blessings.
I want us to hold hands and pass the peace.
I want us to turn and greet each other in all the names that peace can find –
Shalom , Salaam and Namaste.
I want the crescent moon to turn and fill like a great disco ball spiraling above the museum.
I want them to turn up the music and invite us to dance.
That’s it. That’s all we’ve planned.
We turn to each other with hugs and goodbyes.
We drift off anonymous, disappear on the streets,
off to our homes and hotel rooms,
a drink at the bar,
whatever you do on a night like this.
I turn to go back to my room.
The waning light dances on the water.
The sky, a brilliant red.
Then clouds, black and gray and white drift by.
June 17, 2016