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In Orlando, life goes on … but differently

When I got out of my car at church on Sunday and heard a police helicopter overhead, I was mildly curious about what was going on, but I didn’t give it much thought.

Then in Sunday school our group leader mentioned that we needed to pray for “the nightclub shooting.” I thought he meant the incident in which Christina Grimmie was shot. Then one of the women said she had heard the casualties were up to fifty.

That’s when I realized they were talking about a different nightclub shooting.

Our pastor did a great job of preaching on a painful subject on short notice:

In the fellowship hall after worship, one of our members pulled up the news on his phone. CNN called the shooting “the worst in U.S. History.” Seeing that headline, in conjunction with the name of our beautiful city, jarred my nerves. This nightmare was real.

When I got home from church, I turned on the news, and I’m afraid I watched too much of it. I am an information hound, as those who know me best will testify. I hunger for knowledge on a good day. On a bad day, I search for even more. On the worst days, I can’t get enough.

But in this case, watching more TV, reading more news stories, didn’t help. It may have made things worse. I found myself drawn down into a darkness of spirit. One of my spiritual advisors called it a “deep well” when describing her own feelings about the tragedy.

Debbie Kay, on her Facebook page Hope for the Brokenhearted, wrote, “When you are … going through some form of adversity, you might find yourself becoming more stressed or sad than usual when you hear or see the news.… This is normal. Your stress threshold and immunity are lowered when you are dealing with … a crisis of any kind. When there is any sort of … national tragedy, we tend to watch & listen to more news in the aftermath, and it can take more of a toll on us when we are already dealing with something.”

Her message hit me right where I live. I haven’t been very public about my troubles, because I try to keep things professional, but some personal issues in the last several months have been major stressors for me, and this carnage happening so close — the Pulse nightclub is just two miles from my church — it knocked me down completely.

Terror attack in Orlando nightclub shooting

Photo by Kristen Stieffel

You don’t expect to turn on CNN and see a big placard that says “Terror in …” and the name of your town.

You don’t expect to see an FBI investigation on a street corner you’ve passed thousands of times.

You don’t expect to see Anderson Cooper standing on the lawn of your local hospital interviewing your mayor about the worst day in the city’s history.

I finally realized I needed to cut off the news to take control of my misery. I remembered something my son said the weekend after September 11, 2001: “What good is sitting and watching TV and crying all the time?” He was eight at the time. Smarter than me, that boy.

No amount of information gathering or news watching helps ease the pain of reading a casualty list and knowing those are your neighbors. Not theoretical Samaritan neighbors. People who actually lived in my city.

I don’t know any of the victims personally. As far as I know, only one lived in my neighborhood. Someone posted his picture in our community Facebook group.

But that’s kind of beside the point. The point is, even though the attack happened miles away in the middle of the night while I was asleep, it affected me.

This is my town. Those were my neighbors.

And now it’s not bad enough that we have to bury them. We have to form human barriers to protect their mourners from rabble-rousers who spout exactly the same kind of hate as the villain who killed them.

And then the alligator attack. One tragedy upon another.

And yet …

My husband cuts the grass. I cook the dinner. He goes to work. I meet with a client. He watches the ballgame. And I …

I knit a sweater. A tiny green sweater for a friend’s baby who’s due in September. Because despite the grief, despite the anger, despite the fact that Orlando will never be the same again … life goes on.

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

One comment on “In Orlando, life goes on … but differently

  1. […] between my health and my drama, I was already low on spoons when the Orlando shooting happened. And that was it. I was done. I could barely get out of bed in the morning. It took me to […]

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