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Recovering Orlando: In Six—"Where Do We Go From Here?"

So many of us want to say and do something about Orlando. For his part, Brett Reiter, producer of Loose Films, a Columbus-based video production company, chose to host a benefit event at Columbus’ Strongwater space. Called “Recovering Orlando,” all proceeds went to victims, family, and friends of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting. Six-Word Memoirs brought our short-form storytelling to this event as a simple way to allow everyone in the crowd to share their take on this tragedy.

 

IMG_8285Fifteeen days had passed since Pulse Nightclub was transformed from an accepting and free environment to a place filled with screams,cries, gunshots, bloodshed, and terrorizing memories. The horror, heartbreak, and healing process still surround the family and friends of the victims. This atrocity has touched lives throughout the world, including Columbus, Ohio. With Brett Reiter’s lead, Strongwater Food & Spirits offered the Columbus community an evening — in an illuminated, relaxing, welcoming, and accepting environment— to talk about Orlando and make donations to help victims’ families.

Reiter collaborated with Six-Word Memoirs founder Larry Smith to choose six words as a theme for the event. They posed it as a question to give the conversation a framework: “Where Do We Go From Here?”

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“I wanted people to come together in a space to show solidarity for Orlando and all of the issues the tragedy raised,” says Reiter. “I wanted people to be able to engage with all of the issues and to connect through discussion of them.”

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People of all colors and sexualities assembled together, free of judgment and ridicule. Columbus’ legendary drag queen, Nina West, opened the event with an emotional speech. “Since June 12th, I’ve heard so many people say, ‘It could have been us.’” She paused and then added, “This is us; this is we. This is happening to all of us.” Within that striking sentiment, those first Six Words stood out; West had unconsciously opened the evening with six simple yet powerful words.

IMG_8339Reiter said the tragedy was a queer hate crime at its core, but he wanted attendees to reflect on the topics raised by the Orlando shooting, such as acceptance, the fact that it was Latino night at Pulse Nightclub, gun control, the queer community, hope, Islamaphobia, and more.

The evening began with a blank white wall. Throughout the night, as one person after another attached their Six-Word Memoirs to the rows of string, a symbolically colorful display emerged, six words at a time.

IMG_8320“A phenomenal success,” Brett Reiter called it. “Six-Word Memoirs was the perfect bow on the event. The prompt, ‘Where do we go from here?’ really nailed down the broad scope of my event, but allowed for such vivid specificity in the responses.”



Each Six-Word Memoir provided insight into how the Orlando shooting affected individuals, while also highlighting the overall unification as a community. Each memoir didn’t simply represent a single perspective; together they reflect an entire community’s response.

Little City Love, one of the vendors at the event that makes, shares, and sells paper goods with intimate and meaningful words, used their own product as the basis of a Six-Word Memoir:

As the memoirs on display multiplied, so did the spectators. When the night ended and the wall was completed it represented a strong community ready to answer, “Where do we go from here?”

 

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Other memorable short takes on “Where Do We Go From Here,” include:

“We live. We exist. We matter.”
“Follow Australia. Ban ALL assault weapons.”
 “Forward. Always. Let’s include every ONE.”
“The Queer Revolution: Stomping upon Patriarchy.”
“‘Thoughts and prayers’ are not enough.”
“Remain open, loving, strong, brave, together.”
“Black and Brown Queer Lives Matter.”

At the end of the night the colorful creation resembled the gay pride flag, which fit Recovering Orlando’s purpose.

“My absolute favorite part came after the event,” said Reiter. “Reading all of the varied responses brought tears to my eyes. It really showed the diverse collection of thoughts about the event.”

Six-Word Memoirs gives people the opportunity to put the impact the Pulse Shooting had on them in six simple words.

 

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Our Six-Words for Recovering Orlando: “Every Six-Word Memoir impacts a community.”

—Zaynah Ahmed 

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