Just over a week ago, my husband, two children and I embarked on a vacation we had planned for the past year. We wove our way down the east coast in an RV with a few stops at campgrounds along the way. We played UNO at night, told stories, read books and laughed a lot. It was every bit the memory-making vacation we hoped it would be.
On the morning of June 12, we woke up in a campground about six hours away from our final destination in Disney World. The kids were up early and giddy with anticipation. While my husband got the camper ready for the last leg of the trip, I checked the national news. The CNN front page headline that morning was horrifying. “Orlando Shooting: 49 Killed. Worst Mass Shooting in US History.”
My heart seized.
For the next six hours we drove in silence. Once we arrived in “The Happiest Place On Earth,” we set up camp and promised ourselves we’d make the vacation good for our children. We did our best.
There was a definite sense of sadness all around, despite being in “The Magic Kingdom.” During our down time, and often late in the night while everyone was asleep, I felt strong urges to write or draw – so I did. I sketched “#orlandostrong” logos in my sketch book over and over. I wrote poetry about love, life and gratitude. It was a needed distraction; trying to find positive in the negative space.
As the days passed, I saw and read about the growing memorials, poetry and art people all over the world were creating to honor the victims in Orlando.
The Orlando Quilt Guild made heart quilts for those affected by the Orlando tragedy. A retired carpenter built 49 white crosses and drove from Chicago to deliver them. Even Melissa Etheridge released a powerful song titled “Pulse” within 24 hours of the shooting.
I don’t know why we are compelled to create in the wake of a tragedy. Maybe it’s simply that one of our deepest instincts is to care for other people, and sometimes the best way we can express that is by trying to create something that leaves the world a bit better. Perhaps we believe that adding something new to the world will connect us to one another, ease someone’s hurt, help us express our own, or even restore some sense of balance to what’s been knocked way the hell off kilter.