In a time of tragedy, many people look for comfort in the power of the divine or look for solace from a higher being. People assign meaning to symbols and look for meaning itself. It can bring comfort in a period that seems devoid of comfort, and a sense of peace in a time when peace seems nearly impossible.
In the wake of the recent mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 49 birds may have delivered the message of comfort that many are seeking.
On Monday evening, the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center held a candlelight vigil for the 49 victims. Silence fell over the crowd as the names were each read — silence that was often punctuated by cries of grief from loved ones mourning the lives of those lost.
And as the names of all 49 victims were read aloud during the vigil in Orlando, a photographer glanced up and saw a flock of birds overhead. And, as photographers do, she snapped a quick photo, not realizing the significance of what she had managed to capture.
The photographer was shocked, and in a state of disbelief, passed the camera around, asking others to see if they, too, counted 49 birds.
“I then showed everyone around me and had them count,” she said. “We were all stunned.”
The photographer was one of many in the crowd who was mourning the loss of someone when she noticed the birds.
For her, the birds brought a feeling of peace — a hard accomplishment in the wake of such a tragedy.
“Seeing the birds made me feel a sense of peace about the tragedy,” she said.
At a separate candlelight vigil in Lakeland, Florida, 49 doves were purposefully released, which can be seen in the video below, but the birds the photographer captured at the candlelight vigil in Orlando do not appear to be doves at all. Furthermore, a spokesman for the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center said the birds were a surprise to them as well, and that it was completely unplanned. He said the center didn’t release the birds during the vigil. Where the birds came from is an unknown.
— Peter Bernard (@WFLApeter) June 14, 2016
But for some, perhaps, where the birds come from will not be an unknown. Some may be able to take comfort and find peace in the fact that, as the 49 victims’ names were read aloud, 49 birds took wing and flew through the air.
As for the photographer, she states that she would prefer to remain anonymous, so that people can stay focused on those who matter — the victims of the shooting in Orlando, Florida.
“Who took the photo is not as important as what is in it,” she said. “May everyone find healing and peace.”
The photographer posted the photo on her Facebook page, where the image took off and was shared thousands of times. Those who shared and responded to her post seemed to share her sense of meaning and appreciate the symbolism the 49 birds taking flight as the names of 49 victims were read.
The photographer’s caption of her photo was short but effective.
“There were 49 birds, my friends. The fallen were with us tonight.”
“I noticed those birds myself and even told my niece look at those birds,” one person commented.
“We are, each of us, angels, but with one wing. We may only fly by embracing each other,” another person posted.
The name of the 49 victims of the tragic mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12 are as follows.
- Stanley Almodovar III, 23-years-old
- Amanda Alvear, 25-years-old
- Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26-years-old
- Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33-years-old
- Antonio Davon Brown, 29-years -old
- Darryl Roman Burt II, 29-years-old
- Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28-years-old
- Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25-years-old
- Luis Daniel Conde, 39-years-old
- Cory James Connell, 21-years-old
- Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25-years-old
- Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32-years-old
- Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31-years-old
- Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25-years-old
- Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26-years-old
- Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22-years-old
- Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22-years-old
- Paul Terrell Henry, 41-years-old
- Frank Hernandez, 27-years-old
- Miguel Angel Honorato, 30-years-old
- Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40-years-old
- Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19-years-old
- Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30-years-old
- Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25-years-old
- Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32-years-old
- Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21-years-old
- Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49-years-old
- Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25-years-old
- Kimberly Morris, 37-years-old
- Akyra Monet Murray, 18-years-old
- Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20-years-old
- Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25-years-old
- Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36-years-old
- Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32-years-old
- Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35-years-old
- Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25-years-old
- Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27-years-old
- Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35-years-old
- Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24-years-old
- Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24-years-old
- Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34-years-old
- Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33-years-old
- Martin Benitez Torres, 33-years-old
- Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24-years-old
- Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37-years-old
- Luis S. Vielma, 22-years-old
- Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50-years-old
- Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37-years-old
- Jerald Arthur Wright, 31-years-old
[Image via Shutterstock]