In the wake of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, a mother who knows all too well the pain of losing a loved one suddenly and inexplicably to violence penned a heartfelt letter to those who are mourning the deaths of the 49 people killed in Orlando.
The woman who wrote the sorrowful love letter to Orlando is a mother who lost her own child to yet another act of senseless violence– Sandy Hook. On December 14, 2012, the daughter of Nelba Márquez-Greene, Ana Grace, was one of 26 people killed that day, 20 of whom were children.
Márquez-Greene heard about the mass killing at Pulse in Orlando, Florida, from friends who reached out to her, knowing she would be impacted by yet another tragedy. And when Márquez-Greene heard about the act of terrorism, where one man killed 49 others in the Florida nightclub, she felt her own terror grow.
“My first reaction was visceral. I know the horror of waiting to hear. A helicopter flew overhead. It made everything too real. Too familiar. I panicked. I called my friend. I cried. Fifty people. I am reliving being one of the family members in wait.”
“And then she told me. An attack against people who are gay. A specific group. Just like last year around this time. The 17th of June. A Black church. My head is spinning.”
In a voice made even more poignant by the knowledge of grief she possesses, the mother of a child who died in Sandy Hook wrote honestly about the nearly instinctive urge to withdraw from a world gone crazy; that after shooting after shooting, she has grown weary — in the wake of the news of Pulse, she is tired.
“I am tired. I just got back from Canada. And tomorrow is Wisconsin but now I am scared. I want to crawl up in a fetal position on the sofa and watch Harry Potter movies with my son. Perhaps I will build a bullet proof barrier around my house and just order groceries from Peapod all summer. Or for the rest of our lives.”
And yet, Márquez-Greene knows that withdrawing cannot be the answer after Orlando, that cowering down because of fear is exactly what terrorism hopes to accomplish.
Even as she wanted to do what so many mothers must have wanted to do — circle the wagons and stay in with her child, to watch mindless movies and not think about the world — Márquez-Greene couldn’t do that because she was getting ready to go to Wisconsin in order to discuss the tragedy that resulted in the loss of her 6-year-old daughter back in December of 2014. Because, in reaction to the loss of her daughter at Sandy Hook, Márquez-Greene has devoted her energy to combating gun violence.
“But my message was and is and always will be ‘love wins’. And this is why I must go to Wisconsin.”
Her son is the reason why she went on to Wisconsin to spread her message that love wins– her son, and the 49 victims who lost their lives in that nightclub in Orlando, Florida. And it is to the families of the victims in Orlando, Florida, whom Márquez-Greene wishes to reach.
“I have one message for those families in Florida:”
“I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. I am sorry that our tragedy here in Sandy hook wasn’t enough to save your loved ones. I tried and I won’t stop trying. Don’t you dare even listen to even ONE person who may insinuate that somehow this is your loved ones fault because they were gay or any other reason. Nor is it God’s wrath.”
“They did that to us on Sandy Hook- too. And it broke my heart. You will receive love from a million places. Embrace it. Take good care of yourself. This will be a forever journey. Some ugly will come your way too. Delete. Ignore. Let it go.”
“Your loss today will bring out the worst AND the best in all of us. May we commit to being our best selves in honor of what you now bear.”
“I am going to Wisconsin to spread the message that love wins. In honor of your loved ones. Because hate, ugly, evil and prejudice cannot silence love, courage, good.”
In closing, Márquez-Greene promised to learn about each and every person who died in the mass killing at Pulse nightclub in Orlando — and that she will teach her son about them, as well.
Ana Grace, the beloved daughter of Jimmy Greene and Nelba Márquez-Greene, was only 6-years-old when she was killed. She is remembered for her love of music, dance and of God, her father writes.
“Ana’s love for singing was evident before she was even able to talk. In a musical family, her gift for melody, pitch and rhythm stood out remarkably. And she never walked anywhere — her mode of transportation was dance. She danced from room to room and place to place. She danced to all the music she heard, whether in the air or in her head. Ana loved her God, loved to read the Bible and loved to sing and dance as acts of worship. We ask that you pray for the legions of people who are left behind to cherish memories of her.”
The Ana Grace Project, named for her daughter, states that its mission is “Promoting love, community and connection for every child and family.”
[Image credit: Facebook]