When Americans think of "Orlando, Florida," their first thoughts are usually of Disney World -- happy thoughts of a magic place where children of all ages escape from their ordinary, everyday lives to experience the fantasy and fun that only a place like it can offer. That all changed in the early hours of Sunday morning, June 12, 2016, when 49 people were brutally, senselessly murdered by a lone gunman and at least that many others were seriously wounded in Orlando. We awoke to the largest mass shooting in U.S. history that has left us all horrified and numb with grief.
We have become accustomed to such tragedies in other places in the world, Paris and Brussels and Tel Aviv among them in recent months. It would be just a matter of time for us to join their mortally stricken ranks. Events like Sunday's carnage in Orlando leave us reeling, haunted by the questions "When will the violence and killing stop? Will we ever feel safe anywhere again?" What was once unimaginable has now become increasingly commonplace and all too real. Every fiber of our humanity strains to find some explanation, some reason for the violence and death that defy our understanding of human nature, so thoughtlessly and carelessly discarded by those who have no regard for human life. The answers do not come because the experience makes no sense.
The 20th century novelist Mary McCarthy once reflected, "In violence, we forget who we are." Those words are so true because violence turns human beings, created in God's image, into something we were never intended to be. In violence, we lose our identity as children of a loving, merciful God.
Let us pray for the victims of this latest act of incomprehensible violence in Orlando on Sunday and for their families and friends who grieve their loss. Let us also pray that we may recover our identity in the face of such violence that wants us to forget.