If you've never been struck by disaster, you have no idea how traumatic it is.
If you've never had a loved one shot to death, if you've never leapt out of a burning building, if you've never been at the epicenter of a killer earthquake, if you've never been beaten and raped, if you've never had your life ripped asunder by circumstances out of your control -- then you have been blessed with a charmed life.
But also, you have no idea what other people are going through.
Those who died -- they were trapped in a horrific circumstance from which there was no escape. Panic, fear, terror, anguish -- we don't have the words to evoke the sheer brutality of the emotional tsunami in that room as one by one, their existence was snuffed out.
Those who survived -- they experienced the same. And they survived.
They will be scarred forever. Physically, emotionally. There isn't any real healing from something like this. Some of the survivors will be afraid to go outside. Some of them will never go out to celebrate again. Some of them will never enter any kind of crowded situation again -- not a theater, not a club, not even a restaurant.
Some of them will have lost a lover, a husband, or a wife. Some of them will never be able to be vulnerable again. Some of them will never dance again -- emotionally, they are a wasteland tonight, and nothing will bloom there for a long long time.
Pain is a tsunami that overwhelms you. It comes in waves, one after the other -- crippling waves that drop you where you stand. After a while, you incorporate those waves of pain into your existence. Sometimes they come less often, sometimes they don't hit as hard, but they never stop coming.
It can be little things -- like, "I wish Steve were here to see this. He would have loved it." You wonder what he or she would be doing now. Or big things, like suddenly the radio plays that song and you remember the moment when -- oh, god -- you fall down sobbing, racked with emotion, because you will never ever have that person in your arms again. And as much support as people want to give you -- you still end up in bed alone, missing the one who was there to comfort you.
And then there's the guilt -- "Why didn't I listen when she said she wanted to go to the other club?"
And all of the above I've just listed -- that isn't even a fraction of the pain that all these people are going to have to live with for the rest of their lives. Even after they recover, there will be that puckered wound in their flesh to remind them, to reawaken the nightmare.
And this event only makes the news because of the numbers. If it had been five instead of fifty, we'd all just tsk-tsk a little bit and then go back to our own concerns.
But you know what? Those people -- the ones who died, the ones who've survived -- they're us.
Just last night, they would have been the ones tsk tsking about the five or fifty people who died somewhere else. They didn't suspect that it was going to be the last night of their lives. Or that they might end up in the hospital with a shattered knee or a broken hip or a head wound or crushed ribs from being trampled in the panic.
Nobody ever assumes it could happen to them -- but we all walk around anyway with that same gnawing fear of the possibility, that somewhere there's another home-grown terrorist who's assembling a truck-sized fertilizer bomb, or maybe the airplane we're on might also have a bomb in its belly, or maybe the celebration we're attending will also be a target for another madman.
Shock, horror, grief -- all those are natural reactions. But also fear and anger. Fear of the horror is natural.
But so is anger -- but let's be angry at the ones who are truly responsible and who have failed in that responsibility -- the obstructionists in our Congress who refuse to pass laws for gun safety. The blood is on their hands tonight. Because they had the responsibility and they betrayed us, the American people.
They get away with it, because we let them. Because we keep letting our conversations get bogged down in semantic nitpicking, in sidetracks and tangents. We keep getting tied up in the ignorance of those who've been lied to by the propagandists.
Every time, we ask ourselves -- is this it? Is this the one? Is this the moment when we finally say "Enough!"
And every time ... we fail to follow through.
If we weren't going to get outraged when twenty schoolchildren were murdered, are we going to get more outraged when fifty queers get gunned down?
Probably not. Because it's collateral damage for the Second Amendment. It's the tolerable level of carnage.
Nearly seventy years ago, the federal government started setting safety standards for automobiles. Since then, the death toll from car crashes has gone down. Seat belts and airbags and better construction of passenger compartments, and a lot of other safety improvements have made our automobiles and our highways safer than ever.
If we are willing to protect ourselves against the carnage on our highways, then why can't we also protect ourselves the carnage on our streets, in our schools, and theaters and clubs?
Every congressman who ever voted against gun safety -- there is blood on that person's hands tonight. I will not forgive. I will not forget.