Local notables talk about Orlando's senseless tragedy 

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Photo by Jeremy Reper

I was so saddened by the tragic events at Pulse. What I've witnessed in the hours following have given me hope that our city will heal. I witnessed hundreds of volunteers bringing food, water and donations to the Center, watched thousands of people line up to donate blood and read countless encouraging words from friends around the globe. The community has stepped up to show support for the LGBT and Hispanic communities. I am in awe of the outpouring of love. My thoughts are with all of central Florida as we move forward as a united community. – George Wallace, executive director, Orlando Fringe

My heart breaks for the friends and families of the victims of this tragic massacre. In years to come, these men and women will be considered heroes. They will always be part of the era that pushed through legislation for equality for the LGBT community. On Saturday night, they were out celebrating life, and a lifestyle for which they so bravely fought for with the rest of our community. Their contribution will be remembered for generations to come. – Mike Rogier, owner, Hamburger Mary’s

My heart is broken today. No, it has been shattered, and will never be the same. My love and prayers go out to all that had family members, friends and co-workers at Pulse that night. Even though we are all going through a very difficult time, I know the people of this city – my city of Orlando – will embrace each other, comfort each other and support each other. This incredibly heinous act will not dictate how we live our lives but will fuel the love and support which I have witnessed in this community. If anything, this has made me a stronger person ... stronger in love, stronger in my faith of who I am, and stronger in my belief that we are all equal and that is something worth fighting for! Never been prouder to call the LGBT family my family. – Kevin Fonzo, chef-owner, K Restaurant

My heart hurts but my love stays strong! Many peaceful blessings to all. We are Orlando Strong. – Donna Dowless, Orlando’s Ambassador of Love

At this time of grief and sorrow I am very proud of my brothers, sisters and our community together with our unification at this horrific event. My heartfelt condolences to my Pulse family and everyone that has been affected. WE will never be the same – Daniel J. Fraser, former general manager of Southern Nights for 30 years

Orlando ... the City Beautiful. Yes, it is, but what makes it even more beautiful is the diversity of the people that live here – people with families and loved ones who really care about each other and the quality of life. It is heartbreaking to hear about innocent people being massacred by a man that didn't know what beauty and love really are. Somehow in his upbringing, he was never shown the amazing rewards of acceptance and love for himself and others. Let's stop worrying about Judgment Day, and start taking better care of each other through tolerance and compassion. Peace. – Sam Singhaus, entertainer (aka Miss Sammy)

To hear the helicopters and sirens five miles from Pulse, a bar that I and many others have been honored enough to perform in and enjoy each other's company in for many years, there is nothing but shock and extreme sadness that wavers between anger, rage, weeping and then back to shock over and over. Yet the rallying together that has come from our community is jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring. It is all we have to hold onto, and it is pure, unadulterated love. This is the answer: we have to fight back as we cling to one another asking "Why?" There will never be an answer for hate. The only answer we have is love and acceptance. That is what this town is doing, loving. I've never been sadder in my life, but I've never been prouder to live in this beautiful town than I am right now.– Janine Klein, ally and entertainer

We will not be defined by the actions of a single madman. We are defined by how we support and love each other. #OrlandoUnited #DefyExpectationsOrlando – Phil Rawlins, president, Orlando City Soccer Club

My heart aches for the victims, their families and our beloved City Beautiful, but I'm also inspired by the response of our city leaders and our community. We will overcome – the bad guys cannot and will not win. Love conquers all. – Wendy Connor, owner, The Abbey

As the shock fades and the harsh reality of what happened sets in, I am confident that the strength and unity of our community will enable us to rise above this tragedy and emerge even stronger than before. I am proud of our city's leadership during the crisis and of the many heroes who aided the victims. On the most personal level, I've never considered Orlando my true home as much as I do now. – Ted Maines, owner, Ted Maines Interiors

Not sure if I can add anything through this fog of anger I feel right now. We all grieve in different ways, but right now all I want to do is scream at everyone who contributed to the failed system that allowed this lunatic to get these weapons of mass death. This madness must end. – Michael Marinaccio, producer, Orlando Fringe

The devastating event that has occurred has given Orlando one Pulse. Together we are unified and strong! – Pom Moongauklang, chef-owner, Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria

It's not easy to put words together. I want to be sad for those we lost and thankful for those who survived, but I can't help but be angry at those who hate our community because of who and what we are. – Jeff Jones, writer/performer

I feel horrible like everyone else. It was necessary for me to go to the Center the last two days to help wherever I could and to be together with others who were feeling the same. It is necessary we fight on. I will not allow this to silence me; it only makes me determined to do more. Gun legislation cannot be ignored and pushed aside, nor can we tolerate hate. – Linda Stewart, former state Representative, former Orange County Commissioner

There has never been a moment that I haven't been proud to say I live in Orlando. It's where I've grown up, started a family, and built my business and future, and the past few days haven't made me waver in my steadfast love of this City Beautiful. This is the Orlando I love – the one I am proud to raise my son in , the one I'm determined to give back to, because it's given so much to me! One love. One breath at a time while we heal. One #orlandostrong – Trina Gregory-Propst, chef-owner, Se7en Bites

This tragedy has cut us all deep. And unlike those we see on the news, this time we were the news. A place I have called a residence, people I have worked with, friends, have all been lost and affected. But as devastating as this is, it will not and cannot stamp out our resolve to LIVE, to LOVE and to CELEBRATE LIFE! – Power Infiniti, DJ and club performer

We didn't choose this. And it brought us to our knees. But in the hours and days that followed, we wiped our tears, stood tall and got to work. We stood in line, dropped off donations, cooked meals and reached into our wallets. We turned toward each other for comfort. You have renewed my faith in boundless gifts we can share in the human experience if we choose to do so. And I never been more proud to call Orlando my home. – Caitlin Van Voorhis, owner, Finnhenry’s, Ollie’s and Vanbarry’s

I didn't realize the impact this shooting would have on me and the rest of the world. I'm still reeling. Our lives are changed forever. Young people, ready to start their lives, out for an evening of fun, enjoying each other's company – and then it all changed. I'm not sure how all these families and moms and dads will endure the pain. We have to love this away – the pain, the anger, the hatred has to be loved away. I'm a gay man, I have a husband, I have children, and these people were impacted as well. I wish I could take all this pain and hatred away. I live in the truth that love wins. – Gary Lambert, owner, Gary Lambert Salon

A community is like a chain built through friendships, hardships, triumphs, celebrations, individuals and groups; link by link, growing stronger over time. This weekend our chain was tragically and incomprehensibly shattered. The links that were lost can never be replaced. The responsibility now arises for us to remember and rebuild. Respectfully, courageously and fearlessly, we must create connections that will be lasting. Hand in hand, heart to heart with ONE LOVE! – Joel Pfrogner and Jeff Lambert, owners, Blue Bird Bake Shop

We all have an emptiness inside of us. Our hearts are less full with the absence of our friends and the hate toward our community – not just the LGBT community but the Orlando community. Fill the space with love, keep the space from being occupied with anger or negativity. Much was taken from us, but much we need to give to each other and all of our communities now. Love wins, always. – Eric Rollings, Orange County Soil and Water District Supervisor

In times of tragedy and loss, I turn to the theater as my touchstone for expression, unity, clarity, exploration of the human condition and platform for social change. The theater is a place that celebrates and welcomes true diversity. It is my sincere hope that we all can find our own touchstones and stand together in solidarity to make REAL progress to ensure these horrific homophobic mass murders and acts of extremism never happen again to our commUNITY or anywhere else. Let's come together and honor the lives taken TOO SOON by donating time, talents, money, goods, services, kindness and blood not just in this moment, but always. Vote, write your politicians, do your part to make a difference. #OrlandoStrong #Pulse #NoMoreHate #OneLove – Beth Marshall, producing artistic director Beth Marshall Presents, activist, mother



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