Hitting home

To the Editor:

They say that home is where the heart is. I grew up in Bar Harbor and will always consider this wonderful community to be home. I also have had the opportunity to spend a great deal of my adult life and currently live in Orlando, Fla.

Orlando is also the place where I came out of the closet. In college, I met my first real gay friends and began the process of coming out to myself, my friends and my family.

Part of my coming out process included trying to learn about gay culture and meeting other gay men. For the first time in my life, I found a place where being gay was celebrated! On many occasions in my college years, I would go to the Pulse Nightclub. Coming from a small town, it was something so alien to me in the beginning, but a place where I was both welcome and accepted. It was clean, everyone was friendly, and there was great music and entertainment.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Bar Harbor! I would visit every weekend if I was able, but finances, work and life in general make that impossible. I was so excited to visit Bar Harbor this week, and will never forget this trip.

Sunday morning at about 5:30 a.m., I looked at my phone and logged into Facebook and read the Facebook status of a friend that read “There was a shooting at Pulse. I’m ok. Still looking for friends.” After reading that, the first thought I had was that perhaps there was a shooting in the parking lot – something that would be senseless and tragic.

It was shortly after that I learned that 49 innocent people were killed, and 53 people were sent to the hospital. Facebook activated their “Safety Check,” something that had never been activated in the United States. There is something very surreal about seeing your friends and loved ones “checking in” on Facebook and using this as a primary means to make sure that people are alive and okay.

At the end of day, I learned that I had two friends inside the club at the time of the shooting. Both were able to get out without major injury.

The following days were filled with people posting pictures of them with victims from this tragedy.

If you’ve never been to a gay nightclub in Orlando, you should go. The music is loud, the drinks are expensive and the place is always crowded – but you know what, people have fun. No one goes to these places to hurt anyone else. Well, almost no one. People go here to bond with friends, to be silly, to dance and to have fun.

I’ve tried processing and thinking about how to explain what it feels like to see places you’re very familiar with now be linked to the worst domestic terrorist incident in the United States. The news also has recently reported that the shooter scouted out Disney Springs (the old Downtown Disney area) and considered this as the location for this shooting.

I haven’t been to Pulse in years, but frequent Disney Springs at least once a week. To think that this man, who hadn’t broken a law, could have been at Disney Springs looking at shooting angles, seeing how much innocence he could take, while my husband and I were in line for an ice cream cone is truly terrifying.

This person – who had a 3-year-old daughter himself – legally purchased these weapons. I’ve learned through debates with gun lovers that the AR 15 is not considered an assault rifle. I’ll continue to call it an assault rifle, simply because it was used to assault people I love and a place I call home.

The reaction of people after this event also has been very scary. While I have had some people contact me asking what they can do to help, where can they send money to support the victims, there also have been a lot of folks who have turned this political. That’s what hurts.

Knowing that while people are still fighting for their lives in the hospital, while bodies are being buried, and while loved ones are still being notified about this horrific event, people with no connection to the event are using it to push their own agendas really hurts. I don’t care if you are a card-holding member of the National Rifle Association, or if you believe that guns should be outlawed entirely. This is not the time to be talking about this issue in the abstract.

Bar Harbor is home. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss this town and wish that I was still a part of the community. I also love Orlando. Orlando has the pleasure of being called “The City Beautiful.” This won’t change – Orlando will still be considered home and will still be beautiful, even if the darkest, ugliest side of humanity rears its ugly face.

Ron Wrobel

Orlando, Fla.

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