Rollins students reflect on Pulse shooting

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#OrlandoStrong, #OrlandoUnited, #PrayforOrlando: it is a sad but undeniable fact that horror often unites humanity.  Rollins College has a zero-tolerance policy in regards to acts even remotely resembling hate crimes. Unfortunately, as opposed as we are to bigotry and discrimination, prejudiced creeds and delusions continue to survive as contemporary ideologies.  In fact, as was made apparent by the June 12 massacre at Pulse, such ignorant animosity can reside much closer to home than we may realize.

Because of the shooting, many locals—and some here on campus— have now lost an acquaintance or a friend.  Michael Dulman ‘17 expressed the sensations of many who, upon hearing of the tragedy, experienced the pain and fear of not knowing who was hurt: “I was terrified that someone I knew could have been one of the victims, but when I realized that it was no one I knew, I still recognized that these victims had families and friends that were grieving.”

Dulman would later discover that he had been closer to one of the victims than he might have initially thought.  “I found out I was only two degrees of separation from [a victim] who I had this connection with that I didn’t know.  This person was from Jersey and for no other reason she was just visiting Pulse; one of my friends knew her really well.”

President Cornwell described the attack as “a vicious assault on humanity, freedom, and the dignity of every person.”  According to Cornwell, “The Pulse tragedy impacted many people at Rollins. Acts of terrorism rock our sense of safety and hope, and for community members who identify as members of LGBTQI+ and/or Muslim [communities], this may be even more compounded. . . We will need time to heal. Our hope is that through educational opportunities, resources, and service we will help students grapple with this tragedy and find ways to leverage their liberal education to make positive change in the world.”

Despite the tragedy, Rollins was truly “a beacon of light and support to the larger Winter Park and Orlando community” according to Karina Barbesino ‘19.  Madeleine Scott ‘19 also shared similar views: “Because of Rollins’ reaction to the crisis, I was proud to be a part of the larger Rollins community.”

Rollins “reached out and [offered] support in a multitude of ways,” continued Cornwell. “That Sunday morning, Rollins staff coordinated communication efforts, leveraged all possible communication methods to identify impacted students and engaging community outreach efforts.”

Rollins counseling staff, faculty, alumni, and students volunteered their services at the Wellness Center, at the Winter Park library, and with various organizations across the state.  Rollins hosted a campuswide vigil for peace and organzined “a series of sessions for those on campus including Care 101 and Tars Talk,” among contributing to other outreach activities.

President Cornwell also talked about upcoming events that Rollins will host to both honor the victims and address issues that the tragedy has brought up; he encourages the entire Rollins community to participate in these gatherings.

“On Sunday, Sept. 11th at 3:00pm, on the 15th Anniversary of Sept. 11th, we will host a concert and ceremony in Knowles Chapel called ‘We Choose Love’ that will honor the victims, survivors, and responders of both Sept. 11th and Pulse. There will [also] be a Tars Talk that following day at 4 p.m.”

It may be true that some of us have lost our sense of security or experienced outrage and terror at this unexpected intrusion of atrocious violence into our own backyard. Despite our shock and grief, we have stood united in the face of such strong hate.  Come the first day of school in August we were all back at Rollins—at home—ready for the new term.  While we have by no means forgotten the impact of the massacre, we will not let this act of violence take anything more from us than it already has.

Flags and posters can still be seen displayed across the city and our campus, now unmistakable symbols of harmony, peace, and union.  Ultimately, it is up to us to stand strong and not give into fear; it is up to us to remember the daily sacrifices that occur both at home and abroad as people continue to strive for a better world. This might have seemed especially difficult this summer considering the close succession of attacks in Nice, Rouen, and Orlando, but we must all remember that love has always been stronger than hate.

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