Today, guest blogger and hugely talented photographer Carey Sheffield joins us from Orlando. She moved there earlier this year with her family and today she shares a very personal and moving reflection on the tragic events of the past week. We are sharing a collection of images Carey made at Memorial Park, Orlando yesterday.
I didn’t want to move here. This land of Mickey Mouse, rollercoasters, tourists..the town with no soul. At least that is how I had seen it. Having bought my kids here to Disneyland to give them the ‘Magical Life Experience’ on two previous occasions I was left somewhat wanting….Orlando held nothing for me. So it was with trepidation I hopped on a plane and packed up my very full life and joined my husband, with our children on his life’s dream.
The past six months I have to say have been magical but this has had nothing to do with any theme park rides or animated characters but all to do with people and admittedly the wonderful weather. They call Orlando the Beautiful City, I found this amusing at first, what’s beautiful about it? But it is, both in landscape, architecture and most importantly in the wonderfully diverse community of people that the city has to offer.
We were out of town in an idyllic location enjoying a family holiday when we heard about the shooting of the young, beautiful and very talented singer Christina Grimmie. This shooting, not the first I had heard about since living in the States but very worrying, as my children are becoming older and will soon be asking to go to concerts alone, spend time at clubs or in the ‘Downtown’ area of Orlando. For the first time I started to question our life here.
Then the news of the shooting at Pulse Nightclub. We hung on to the news via the social media channels, feeling guilt that we were safe, having fun and enjoying our holiday whilst the story of this heinous event started unfolding. I don’t call it a tragedy, for me a tragedy is something that cannot be prevented, a hurricane, a volcano erupting, a tsunami..this was pure evil, beyond imagining, a total disregard for human life. We sit now and watch the news as these events edge closer and closer to home. With social media we soon discover how close it is. We all have a friend or friend of a friend involved. We see the devastation up close. Watch the videos, see their last written words and feel the pain as if it was our own.
We flew home back to Orlando and for the first time since moving here I wanted to actually go home, home to England. Protect my children, take them away from a place that makes it so easy for an evil criminal to cause so much devastation. Makes it easy for anybody to go out buy a gun, a hand gun, automatic..whatever, it can be bought. People, everyday civilians should not be able to purchase a License to kill. I feel very strongly that weapons should not be in the hands of people on the street. In their handbags, glove compartment of their car, bedside drawer. I’m not naive, I know that this is probably not going to change here and may effect our decision to stay long term. Orlando is now famous because of the death of these 49 beautiful human beings. This saddens me.
All around me friends, neighbours, locals are doing their bit to help all those effected. There are lines of people donating blood, volunteers giving hugs, water, food whatever you need. Money being raised to fly relatives in for funerals, apartments are being provided free of charge for those visiting so they may have somewhere to stay. Banners along the highways offering prayers and calling for solidarity in these difficult times. Its touching, beautiful and so very sad.
Today I visited the Memorial. I live here, this is where I am now and I felt it. The moment I stepped out of the car I was overwhelmed with emotion. To read the words dedicated to those that have lost their lives and to see the tributes laid down in their honour was all too much. This City known for fun times and roller coasters, a hot spot for British tourists who never see more than the land of Disney has a heart and a soul. Behind the mask of the characters that bring your children joy are young people that live here and who have most definitely loved and lost somebody this week.
What have I learned from living here, being so close, crying real painful tears from what I have read and seen? Don’t judge. Don’t judge a City until you have taken a time to see whats behind its facade. Don’t judge a human being because of their colour, gender, sexual preference, religion. In the aftermath of something so devastating what you are left with is pure love, painful, raw and beautiful love. Orlando really is the beautiful City I am just so sorry that such awful events had to occur for me to see it.
Words and images Carey Sheffield.