Fear. Anger. Heartbreak. These are some of the raw emotions with which many in Orlando and across the country are wrestling after a lone gunman’s rampage left 49 dead, and tens of others injured at a gay nightclub early Sunday morning. The attack has since been called the deadliest shooting in American history.
But this is not the first time Orlando has been in the news this week. Just days earlier, singer and former contestant on NBC’s The Voice, Christina Grimmie, was shot during her show at the Plaza Live Theater.
Senseless acts of violence like those in Orlando over the past few days are just that: senseless. They defy conventions of logic and common sense, which often makes them difficult to process. They also reverberate throughout the country, and the world—a fact to which the surf community is not immune.
C.J. Hobgood grew up in Satellite Beach, just an hour away from Orlando. In February he moved to downtown Orlando. “[I live] a few blocks away from where the young singer was shot one way, and a few blocks the other way from the [nightclub] shooting,” he said. “My friend was showing us pictures of celebrating a friend’s birthday in that nightclub. My neighbor who’s a doctor went in and was treating the wounded. My friend’s a counselor. He’s been on around the clock. Every single person is rallying to do something, which is so good to see. There’s so much more love than hate in this world, I see that. But it’s definitely surreal as you see this stuff on TV and now it’s in the town you call home.”
Mass shootings and acts of terrorism shift paradigms. In the U.S. alone cities like New York, Boston, San Bernardino, etc. all have pre- and post- hyphen (insert senseless tragedy) in their lexicon to describe life before and after such trauma. In the case of 9/11, events in New York City sent ripple effects throughout the world in such a way that 15 years later we’ve grown accustomed to removing our shoes and putting our laptops in a separate bin during airport security screenings.
Orlando is no different. According to CJ, “[there’s] a helicopter that has been in the air for three days now. And when I pick my daughter up from school across the street, every media channel in the world is camped out.”
Orlando is an important city for surfing, particularly the surf industry. It plays host to the largest surf industry trade show on the East Coast every September and January –Surf Expo. It’s also the closest major metropolitan area to such Central Florida Coast surf communities as Cocoa Beach, New Smyrna Beach, and those around Sebastian Inlet. Whether any of the victims themselves had strong ties to local surf communities remains to be seen. But the Orlando after-the-attack reality is certainly something Surf Expo organizers will have in the back of their minds come September. Surf Expo, however, did not wish to add anything to this story.
Without discounting the loss of life and the numerous broken families currently grieving, attacks like these are symbolic. One man had hate in his heart for the LGBTQ community, and took matters into his own hands. This is an event that takes up issue with an entire community’s sense of self, and by extension our society’s. Another man took it upon himself to end a woman’s life whom he had never met, for reasons that remain unclear.
The sad truth is events like these seem to be occurring with greater frequency. And each time, we find it more difficult to rationalize them. They test our society’s resilience. It’s easier said than done, but anger, revenge, and fear–these are the societal responses that perpetrators hope for.
If Orlando has taught us anything it’s that where and when we see hate in the world we must choose to love instead.