Singleton

That was one hot Sunday morning in the Tower Grove South neighborhood of St. Louis.

I had just woken up still buzzed from the realization that my relationship with my fiance was officially over - and I had spent the night doing some non-celebratory drinking for that reason.

I was running late that morning because Clinton County, Illinois holds a men’s summer baseball league and I had to cover two of those games that day for the Carlyle Union-Banner.  

(Note to the people of Lincoln County: You guys are great, but please don’t get any ideas. They’ve been doing this for about 70 years and I like what few weekends I do get.)

I turned on the television, as is my habit while I get dressed to watch ESPN. However, something told me to change the channel to another network instead.

All the networks are covering a mass shooting in my adopted hometown of Orlando, Florida at a gay nightclub on South Orange Avenue called Pulse, just past downtown. 

I had driven past that place multiple times on my way to head to other bars - and many friends frequented that place! Please tell me no one I know was there that night!

At this point, a bunch of Clinton County yokels playing baseball didn’t matter. My job as a sports reporter didn’t matter that day.

Throughout the day, I was calling friends in the Orlando Metropolitan Area. As each inning passed without an answer, I grew more terrified one of those unfortunate souls who perished a few hours before was a friend of mine.

Finally, my friend Helen called to tell me she and her friends decided to stay home that night. Mario then called to let me know he and his friends chose to go to another gay bar, which ended up saving their lives.

I finally got in touch with my friend Lisa in the fifth inning of the second game I was covering. By this time, conflicting reports were coming in about a suspect named Omar Mateen and a terrorist angle involved in the attack.

Terrorism? In Disney World? I could throw so many jokes out there, but that was not time for them!

Plus, Disney’s in Kissimmee, but I digress. 

I finally managed to make it back to my apartment around 7 p.m. All of my friends had been accounted for, save for two, who I found out later had escaped the attack.

Forty-nine others hadn’t been so lucky.

In what was at the time the worst mass shooting in American history, and still the worst mass hate crime in American history, one man’s intolerance changed a city forever.

However, it couldn’t break it! Orlando is still as strong as ever, and it became stronger because of it.

Congress unanimously voted to make the Pulse Memorial a National Historical Monument to mark the five-year anniversary of the massacre. 

June is, of course, Pride Month, and though I am as straight as the roads in Illinois, my brother is a member of the LGBTQIA community.

I’d be lying to you if I said to you I always liked his clothing choices. 

I’d really be lying to you if I said to you I always liked his taste in music.

However, I’d really be lying to you if I said to you I never worried about his safety. There is still too much intolerance out there, even in Los Angeles, where he lives, even in a much more tolerant era.

Maybe I’m being an overprotective big brother.

Or maybe I’m reminding myself of the one time intolerance hit home - in my backyard!