Processing Tragedy: A Look at the Communities Affected by the Orlando Massacre and Christina Grimmie’s Death

This past weekend we experienced a lot of death in America. And it ripped holes into the hearts and faiths of so many people and communities.

When something awful—something tragic—like this happens, you feel it. Even if you’re not directly related to it, you still feel the tremors emanating out. Unwarranted death doesn’t go unnoticed. It may go un-acted upon, but it’s always noticed. But when you’re part of the community on which an act of hate is performed, it rocks you to your core.

I felt that heart-splintering earthquake on Saturday when I awoke to a flood of panic and mourning on my Facebook feed about the death of Christina Grimmie. Before she was on the Voice and really gained more mainstream fame, she was a YouTuber. I had the privilege of hearing her perform at my first VidCon in 2012. I remember loving her hair and using her picture as an example for my hairstylist. I remember being so in awe that this girl who was younger than me had such unquenchable talent and had gained an impressive YouTube presence. I remember thinking that she would go so far.

And she did. And she would most likely continued on had she not been murdered. But she was. And those of us in the YouTube community—whether direct fans or not—are left reeling with the shock and the chaos and the questions of our safety. One of the joys of YouTube is that there generally isn’t the same kind of line drawn between you as a viewer or fan and the creator like there is with traditional celebrities. It comes in part from YouTube’s culture of breaking the 4th wall and talking directly to the camera, but also because the people who became YouTube’s first “stars” are just normal people who happened to make really interesting video content and put it online. Most people who consider themselves “YouTubers” know who Christina Grimmie is and have a decent amount of respect for her talents and accomplishments. Which caused my social media feeds to fill with people trying to make sense of their emotions after this horrifying incident. We lay blame. We question security efforts. We look for motives. We demonize groups. We christen heroes.

It doesn’t change the death. But it gives us something to cling on to.

And then 49 people die in an Orlando bar with many more severely injured a little over 24 hours later. This time, the horror cuts right through the LGBTQ community—one I’m not directly a part of but am close to many who are. Many people I know who are a part of both those communities, and all I can think is that there is so much death in such a short period of time. And there’s so much anger. And so many thoughtless “thoughts and prayers.” And so much confusion. And so much blame laid in one place or another—religion, guns, security, social persecution.

I know why people cry out for gun reform. It seems sick that a man who’s been interviewed by the FBI twice could get his hands on a kind of weapon designed specifically for killing as many people as quickly as possible. Or really, that anyone outside of the military would have need for a weapon like that (barring those who stockpile for the apocalypse).

I also know why others cry out in defense of their right to have guns. Bad guys will get guns one way or another. The right to own a weapon seems more important than ever as the government becomes more convoluted and seemingly out for itself more than for its people.

But mostly, I know that people are hurting. And this hurt and tragedy has been happening with increasing fervor in recent years. And I understand that people want to find a way to make this hurt stop.

So how do we make it stop?

Working together seems like a good place to start. I liked reading about Chick-fil-A working on a Sunday to cook and deliver chicken sandwiches to the hundreds of people waiting for hours to donate blood to the victims of the Pulse shooting despite the company’s strong public stance against homosexuality. That’s loving your neighbor.

These tragedies are enacted in order to cause pain, hate, and confusion. And we more often than not, allow it to do just that. We fight over gun laws. Assume there’s a hidden agenda. Accuse prominent politicians of conspiracy. We let it break us—widening the cracks in our foundation a little more.

All I can ask, as a member of a community that’s been hard struck this weekend, is that you might think for a moment before you call out hate—what you may not even believe to be hate. Pretend for a moment that you’re a part of the community that’s been targeted. Or think for a moment as a person on the opposite if you are in an affected community. Try to see what they see. Try to feel what they feel. Then before you speak. Pause a moment. Breathe. Think.

Then speak.



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