It’s hard to believe that the Pulse shootings took place almost a year ago. On the day following the shootings, our Edelman Orlando family gathered around a large conference table in disbelief. Employees were dumbfounded, asking: “How could this happen in our community? This is where we live, and massive shootings don’t happen in our city.” Orlando, also known as the happiest place on earth to many families that vacation here, was shaken to its core. One thing was certain: our community would never be the same.
As I reflect on the last 12 months as a born and raised (practically!) Central Floridian, I know our community has grown and turned tragedy into triumph. You can see and feel it every day. Obvious signs are seeing the newly rainbow-painted Lake Eola Amphitheater and 49 (representing the number of lives lost) dedicated rainbow chairs in the new Orlando City Stadium. The less obvious, but more important signs, are those we feel. These are feelings of love, kindness, empathy and a sense of knowing that even though our community is diverse, we’re all united in knowing that hate has no place in Orlando.
Take for example our community’s official establishment of the One Orlando Alliance. This group convened informally just days after the shootings. Representing more than 30 disparate LGBTQ nonprofits and organizations, the group came together to fill the immediate needs of those directly affected by the shootings. While Edelman immediately stepped in to help this group organize and facilitate needs, today the One Orlando Alliance exists because of the dedication of leaders from the local LGBTQ groups. This is leadership born from love, kindness and empathy to help others in need.
The One Orlando Alliance is leading by example, creating dialogue, collaborating, and empowering the LGBTQ community in Central Florida. Together, with the City of Orlando and Orange County, the One Orlando Alliance helped create the Acts of Love and Kindness Campaign to mark the one-year anniversary of the 2016 Pulse shootings. On the anniversary of this tragic day, Central Florida will unite again to ACT (volunteer an act of kindness), LOVE (share a personal June 16, 2016 story) and GIVE (show generosity through giving).
I’m proud of our community, its leaders and our residents who make this place not only the happiest place on earth for its visitors, but also for those who call Orlando home every day. United we stand—and united we grow.
Lori Kifer Johnson is general manager, Edelman Orlando.