This is not about politics. This is not about the shooter. Right now, in Orlando, we don’t care.

All we care about are the victims and their families.

I’ve lived in Orlando for 17 years.

I was in middle school here when the World Trade Center crumbled. I was in high school here when the London bus bombings happened.

And then there was Oslo. Belgium. Paris. And so many others.

We all remember where we were when significant tragic events happened. We can pinpoint everything. These aren’t milestones. These are just tragic markers throughout our lives.

We know it can happen anywhere at any moment, including our own home. When a tragedy strikes another city, we worry about what could happen to ours.

But deep down we think it’s still a little farfetched. We think the percentage of it happening is so tiny.

And then it actually does happen to our city. Sunny Orlando. And the horror sinks in, making it a very dark day.

“This really just happened.” That’s what everyone says the morning after so many lives are lost.

We hear the ambulances all day on Sunday. We know no more information than the rest of the world. We’re just in a state of panic.

I never thought I would be writing about such a tragic event happening in a city I reside in.

I still can’t fathom it. I have friends that can’t even walk into a store in Orlando right now.

I have friends that know Pulse like the back of their own hands. So when we watch the news and hear the stories of the surviving victims, I can see them trying to hold back tears.

Because they know what it looks like inside. When someone says they were hiding behind the wall of the bathroom, people know which wall is being referenced.

The phrase “it hits home” is more real than ever. The sadness of thinking about what those victims have gone through is crippling.

If you’re unfamiliar with Orlando, let me cover some basics.

  • Yes, tourists are here.

2. Yes, traffic is bad.

3. Yes, tourism has greatly contributed to the city. But so has tech in recent years (more on that in a bit).

4. Yes, it’s a VERY diverse community.

5. No, it’s not all old people.

6. No, it’s not that big of a city. It’s actually smaller than you think. It has a ton of pocket suburbs that only take 10–15 minutes to get to from Downtown.

7. No, Disney World is not in Orlando.

8. Yes, it is and always will be a thriving community.

With all of its suburbs, surrounding areas, and everything in between, Orlando basically is Central Florida. So regardless of where people live, whether it’s the beach half an hour away, or Plant City (where the famous Strawberry Festival is), it’s all home.

And as many tourists come in and out of Orlando yearly, no one could ever imagine something happening like what happened over this past weekend at Pulse.

Some more info on Pulse:

It’s a prime hangout spot for not just for LGBT individuals, but many people in general. Many of the employees don’t fall into any category either. It’s a community and a very close-knit community at that.

It’s not a random club.

For Orlando, a lot of friends of friends were victims of this night. It’s not really a “six degrees of separation”. More like “two to three degrees” for most people.

And even if you don’t know anyone, it still affects you. Dealing with pain and loss in the community is not easy.

It’s real stuff. Tragedy is not something to play with. Days go by and it’s still a terrifying thing even when you don’t directly know someone who was lost in the event.

When it comes to businesses, Orlando has been growing significantly the past few years. Corporations are establishing themselves here.

Startups are quickly growing.

The tech space is rapidly expanding, with a ton of initiatives to encourage its growth even further.

Orlando is not New York City. It is not San Francisco. And it never will be. It doesn’t have to be.

Orlando was known for harboring Disney World. For the place where Walt wanted dreams to come true. To be honest, I think it really is that place.

But just a couple miles away, many lives were changed forever. All we can do is pray for them and their families. Because right now, their families are guaranteed to be struggling.

In a time of mourning, businesses are going to slowly gather themselves and keep moving. Because they have to.

Because this city needs it. Because fear alone can’t hinder this city.

Because Orlando is strong. Everyone is capable of standing together.

Everyone… united.

The donations. The counseling. The assistance. More and more people are giving. Businesses are providing resources.

Even the meet-ups are resuming, not just to pitch their ideas, but to raise whatever they can for the recent events and contribute to the community.

All we can do is create. We can build our city. We can build ourselves. We can build each other.

At the end of the day, gratitude is all we have.

It’s what tells us to go home early for the day and spend time with family. It’s what tells us to call our loved ones to tell them we appreciate them.

It’s what tells us to tell our employees and coworkers that they matter to the company more than they will ever know.

Gratitude is what tells us to love.

(This was originally written for Medium.com)

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