This is a submission by a founding member of Ithaca is Love, who was asked by The Ithaca Voice to reflect on the Orlando massacre that claimed the lives of 49 people on June 12, 2016. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. Click here to submit community announcements directly to The Voice, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ITHACA, N.Y. — I remember waking up early Sunday morning, after a night out. I scooped up my cell phone for my routine Facebook check. I didn’t have to scroll long before pictures and articles of the horrific attack at Pulse Night Club flooded my screen. My heart sank as I read about the victims, recounts from survivors, and the devastating theories behind what had happened. The pained and grief stricken faces of parents, relatives, and friends of the 48 innocent lives that were lost were haunting. I began to fill with emotions ranging from anger to anguish.
As the emotions raged within, an odd feeling started to rise to the surface. I was at a gay night club the night before. What if the shooting happened elsewhere? What if it happened at the club in which I was dancing? My thoughts became worse. I was not out to my family at the time. What would have happened if they received a call that I had become a victim? How would they feel? I took a deep breath and took a mental step back. I knew that if I was feeling this way, there must be plenty of others
feeling the same, and worse. I wanted to act. I needed to act to help myself process the tragic events of the night before.
At the time, I didn’t know what to do or how, but I knew I needed to do something. I reached out to Deb Molehnhoff, who is an amazing ally and involved in many community events around Ithaca. Within 24 hours, we were able to spread the word and establish a meeting for any community member who wanted to help create a plan of action. We met at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Ithaca Commons, members of the queer community and allies came together to grieve, to comfort and above all, to take action. We decided it was imperative for us to stand in solidarity with the victims, their relatives, and their friends, and to show that love is stronger than hate. Thus, Ithaca is Love was born.
We decided to take an aerial photo on the Ithaca Commons of people dressed in the colors of the rainbow. This photo would be sent down to Orlando to show that Ithaca stood in solidarity. Shirts in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple with the Ithaca is Love logo were made and sold at cost. Sheryl Sinkow volunteered her services and took the photo for the postcard that would be sent to Orlando. In the wake of such tragedy, it was heartwarming to see the powerful response from the Ithaca
community. Over 600 attendees arrived for the event and t-shirts were sold out within 34 minutes of becoming available. People of all ages, orientations, and gender identities came together. Strangers were hugging one another, crying together, laughing together, and coping in their own personal ways.
When I first felt the need to do something, I didn’t expect this turn out. It became a chance to remember and honor the 48 victims, free of political connotations, and a chance to grieve respectably with others.
Looking back over the past year, Ithaca is Love, the non-profit group that was born out of the Pulse Nightclub Tragedy, organized three LGBTQIA+ community events, and will continue to create events, which spread love, acceptance and inclusivity. The non-profit has also worked with the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, The Downtown Ithaca Alliance, and the Ithaca & Tompkins County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, to create window decals for local businesses that wish to show
that they are an inclusive space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Out of the darkest of tragedies, something beautiful happened. Our community (and similar communities across the nation) came together to mourn, to honor lives lost, to effect change, and to prove a point. The point? That love will always be stronger than hate.
– Founding Member of Ithaca is Love
Featured photo by Anna Kucher/The Ithaca Voice