A mass shooting survivor on how a simple message of hope can comfort a grieving community
Josh Garcia was part of the management team at Pulse nightclub where a gunman killed 49. Now he’s part of a team that spreads hope to fellow survivors.
On June 12, 2016, 49 lives were taken and thousands more were directly affected by a senseless act of hate. As part of the management team for the Pulse Nightclub, I thought to myself, “how could this happen in our home of love and acceptance?” Immediately, the world rallied together to show love is stronger than hate and encouraged the community of Orlando to keep hope.
A couple weeks after the tragedy, hope was delivered to our office in the shape of a star. I was first approached by a mother and her two sons. She explained that the stars were Stars of HOPE, created by her company for Orlando’s first responders, survivors, and community members. They were personal pieces of art created to inspire hope. When I said thank you to her children they responded with, “We wanted to let you know we were thinking about everyone.” This was the positive shock I needed!
The next day, I connected with Stars of HOPE volunteers. The volunteers were introduced to the Pulse staff and family members. They delivered stars created by local businesses and survivors of previous tragedies. Small smiles started appearing as they searched through looking for their perfect star.
To this day, those who received a Stars of HOPE continue to be inspired by the kindness of a stranger, the message to maintain hope, and the reminder of love. The Stars of HOPE were not just delivered but were placed around town in trees and fences. This continued to remind me of all of the kindness in the world. Now, Orlando continues to honor the 49 by creating Stars of HOPE for others and spread light during darkness.
After tragedy strikes, we often ask the question, “What can I do?” A piece of advice shared with me was to “honor with action”. No matter how old or young, Stars of HOPE is a project that allows you to take action and let others know they are not alone.
Together we create hope, together we heal. Get involved today at StarsofHopeUSA.org.