The Last Dance

Matt Mitchell, 42, who was born and raised in Orlando, takes a moment Tuesday, June 14, 2016  to pray at a growing memorial a
Matt Mitchell, 42, who was born and raised in Orlando, takes a moment Tuesday, June 14, 2016 to pray at a growing memorial at the The Dr. Phillips Center for the victims of the mass shooting Sunday at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

Tonight I arrived home late and pulled my car into the driveway. After turning off the engine, I heard the sound of the whirring fan from the upstairs window, informing me that my husband Alex was fast asleep with our pups. I sat for a moment and scrolled through my Facebook feed, a soft wind whispering to me through the windows of my car. Noticing that a video of Anderson Cooper in Orlando was trending, I hit the play button and sat back in my seat. As he read the names of the 49 people who lost their lives in the tragedy at Pulse nightclub, I found myself, for the first time since the incident, sobbing.

When the video ended, it scrolled into the next clip which was Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda's moving sonnet Love is Love. I literally could not stop crying. Tears flooded my cheeks and I sat for at least a half an hour, watching each video several times. I dried my eyes, locked my car and walked inside. Although I haven't written anything in months, I felt compelled to write how I am feeling.

Over the last 24 hours as news of the tragedy came to me via texts and phone calls, I have felt absolutely numb. As I watched the countless hours of news footage, I found myself sad, but not deeply moved emotionally. Maybe I had become so conditioned to the violence in our times and the hatred towards the LGBT community, that honestly, I wasn't surprised. That should make me sad. So why now, after watching these videos, did I find myself sobbing uncontrollably, to the point where I had to go in the bathroom so I wouldn't wake up my husband? What had occurred in those 30 minutes in my car that I hadn't witnessed or felt before.

I saw the people behind the story. As I listened to the names and the stories about each of these people, I heard about their work ethic, their families and their partners. In many of their names I heard the proud heritage of our Hispanic brothers and sisters and I too, felt proud to be married to someone of the same heritage. I sobbed even harder when I heard of boyfriends who died together, imagining myself and my husband in the same situation. In their stories I heard my story; a desire to have fun in a safe environment and for once, be myself. I imagined myself in that bar, as I have found myself many nights in a gay bar. It could have been me. It could have been any of us.

I cannot for one second imagine what they felt as they were slaughtered, but I am sure it was the deepest sort of fear we have never felt in the depths of our souls. Why should any human being ever have to endure such agony. Is slaughter too loud or violent of a word. Absolutely not. It is the truth.

As a proud gay man and a proud member of the LGBT community I am tired of being used as political debate and as a discussion piece on issues such as gun control, terrorism and religious rights. They were people, not political issues for debate.

And I am a person.

I am more important than your right to carry a gun.

I am more important than your right to religious freedom.

I am more important than your convictions.

I am a human and I am important.

If you don't agree with these statements you've made yourself alarmingly clear. You...are...dangerous.

Why is it we've become so conditioned to violence and hatred? Why is it we accept it instead of seeking compassion? I hate that I live in a world where our presidential candidates are more concerned with what speech to give in light of a tragedy than to stand behind a microphone and spill out their hearts and souls, as human beings should. Why would I want anyone other than that making a decision for my life?

I hate that I live in a world where everyone has an opinion, unedited, on social media that has the ability to move me to tears more than tragedy itself. What happened to the times when people were considerate enough to shut their mouths and keep opinions to themselves out of fear of hurting someone's feelings. When did we stop caring about people's feelings...about their lives. What has happened to us?

We must remember them. We must remember their stories and stand up proud in their wake. We must remember that we all have a story and we are all important in the cycle of life.

49 people dead. I hope I never forget how very, very important they were to this world.

I sob thinking about the families and friends left behind. The children unborn and the art never created. The marriages never officiated and the first kisses never had. The friends never made and the arguments never mended. The movies never seen and the books never read. The meals never eaten and the jokes never told. The careers never started and the classes never attended. The song that had just begun and the dance that will last forever.

May we find peace in all of our hearts,


testPromoTitleReplace testPromoDekReplace Join HuffPost Today! No thanks.