Because I went to college in Florida, I have several friends who live in Orlando. One of those friends, Richie Barnes, shares his thoughts on what this weekend’s soccer game will mean to help the city heal from the awful acts of last Sunday morning.
This Saturday, over 30,000 fans will flock to Camping World Stadium to see our Orlando City Soccer Club take on the San Jose Earthquakes. The significance of this match goes far beyond the sport, though. This match will be a reflection of our community and how we respond to adversity.
As our Mayor Buddy Dyer said, “hate visited Orlando” this past weekend. I refuse to name the person who terrorized Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning, but it is important to note that he is not responsible for making Orlando strong. The fact is, Orlando always has been and always will be strong.
The eyes of the world have been focused on The City Beautiful this entire week and instead of using this platform to take pity upon ourselves, this amazing community has responded by showing unity and strength far beyond what anyone could have imagined. For those from Orlando, this comes as no surprise. From the 8-hour waits to donate blood to the $7+ million dollars raised between two funds for the victims and their families along with the countless other acts of humanity we have seen, there is no doubt Orlando has always been strong.
Saturday night, 30,000 people from all different races, backgrounds, cultures, religious beliefs and values will come together as one, putting aside any differences they may have. Some will be there as they are for every home match, in hopes to see an OCSC win. Others will be there in support of our grieving community. Some may just want to escape from the harsh realities they are facing, even if for just a few hours. Others will be taking a first step toward returning to a normal life. Just like our city, Camping World Stadium will be a melting pot where everyone comes together in unity and acceptance of all.
While the result on the pitch will read as a win, loss or draw in the morning paper, quite frankly, that is irrelevant this Saturday night. The fact is, the city of Orlando has already won and will continue to win by the outpour of support we give each other today, tomorrow and every day moving forward. We always have been and always will be, Orlando Strong.