Cover Story

Mourning Together, We Remain Unbreakable

Written by Richard Hack

WILTON MANORS—It has been an unfathomable four days since the largest massacre in US history took place in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. For days we have watched the growing list of mainly LGBT victims, murdered at the whim of a deranged killer whose motivation remains unclear still.

For many of our community, the stunned reality of the situation is only now beginning to make itself know in our hearts, our minds, our souls. We walk through hours and then days thinking of little else than the tragedy that as hit us all—straights and gays alike. And it is in the same spirit of survival that we head into the weekend ahead where a celebration of pride is about to be unveiled on Wilton Drive.

There will be family picnics in the park, vendors on the street, and a parade down the Drive—all intended to celebrate our community’s strength under normal circumstances. But these times are anything but normal; these circumstances are anything but under our control. Like seaweed afloat upon the waves of life, we move now in an illusion of daily life; a suggestion that there is a world of normalcy somewhere ahead.

The Mayor of  Wilton Manors has issued a statement echoing what many of us are feeling.

“Our community is deeply saddened by this deathly act of hatred and our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims, their friends and family members,” said Mayor Gary Resnick. “Now is a time for our community, and our neighboring communities to band together in unity.”

There has been a rush of volunteers for Stonewall Pride; straight and gay allies that have offered to stand guard along the parade route and street festival. The organizers project that more people that ever will come to celebrate the day as a demonstration of their determination to spit back in the face of the madman who caused our deep mourning and for whom we search for forgiveness.

“The situation is fluid, and evaluation is ongoing. Security and safety remains our top priority, said Mayor Resnick. “Throughout the planning process, the Wilton Manors Police Department (WMPD) and others have been working with the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, and will continue to do so.”

The Annual Stonewall Street Festival and Parade in Wilton Manors, that commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, draws approximately 30,000 individuals from all across the country.

“The Annual Stonewall Festival is about one thing – equality,” said Mayor Resnick. “In the wake of this massacre, we are reminded that our community must remain strong and promote equality for all. Wilton Manors is not just a physical address, we are the heart and soul of the LGBT community.”

The Pride Center at Equality Park, in partnership with the City of Wilton Manors, held a public vigil on Sunday, June 12, 2016 to honor those whose lives were lost and those who were injured in the massacre. With more than 1,000 individuals in attendance, Mayor Gary Resnick, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Representative Ted Deutch, Senator Chris Smith, Broward County Mayor Marty Kiar, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, and local clergy members provided heartfelt and uplifting remarks. In addition, live vocal performances were conducted by the Gay Men’s Choir of South Florida.

“I thank our friends and colleagues at the Pride Center for putting this vigil together. I also want to thank the law enforcement agencies particularly the Wilton Manors Police Department and the Broward Sheriff’s office for providing security during the event,” said Mayor Resnick.

There will be multiple moments of silence to pay tribute to Orlando’s dead and the injured. We will be there to stand tall and proud, unbreakable in our determination to achieve total equality that all humans deserve.

But as wlth all freedom, we must be prepared to fight for our rights and our dignity. We have won some skirmishes and been defeated in some battles. Yet here we are, more determined than ever to honor our fallen brothers and sisters, and celebrate with honor there lives and our own.

Stonewall Pride 2016. Be strong. Be Proud. Be Unbreakable.