‘Hate will not define us:’ Orlando works to heal after tragic mass shooting

ORLANDO, Fla. (WAVY) — A city employee disturbs the morning calm with his leaf blower. One could say its a metaphor for a city trying to sweep away the sorrow.

On a bright, 93 degree day in downtown Orlando, the calm but dark mood still permeates Lake Eola, where joggers circle the water dotted with swans.

“I think we’re really sick of it, really sick of it,” says Rachel Villa Gomez.

Like everyone else, Gomez has been deeply hurt by Sunday’s mass shooting that left 49 dead. Still, she is ready to move on.

“I guess the good news that comes out is counteract the sadness of it all,” Gomez told WAVY-TV’s Tom Schaad.

If there is any good news, it’s about community. Thousands stood together on a sweltering June night to close the wounds left by violence. Signs of mourning and remembrance call out to passing downtowners. From St. George Orthodox Church on Rosliand Avenue, to the names of the dead displayed over Interstate 4 from the iconic WESH 2 News tower, our NBC affliate in nearby Winter Park.

This is a time for reflection on what it means to be alive.

“The awesome part of it is, I don’t have to know you to know that you’re going through this with me. Because you’ll be able to heal and likewise, you help me heal,”  says Keisha Thomas.

People from all walks of life left their tributes at a growing memorial at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center — everything from framed photographs to Bibles.

“Hate will not define us,” Mayor Buddy Dyer told a crowd who gathered downtown. “And hate will not defeat us, because we are one Orlando.”

WAVY-TV’s Tom Schaad is in Orlando, Florida and will have continuing coverage of the tragedy there throughout the week.


The original version of this story was posted on WAVY.com

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