Opinion: Faith and Inspiration
By The Apopka Voice Editorial Staff
The streets of Heaven are too crowded tonight...too crowded with our friends, our families and our neighbors.
It was the most violent week in Central Florida history. Christina Grimme was shot and killed after concluding a concert Friday night at The Plaza Live. Early Sunday morning a gunman shot and killed 49 people, and wounded 53 others at the Pulse Nightclub. Then on Wednesday a 2-year-old boy drowned when an alligator pulled him into a man-made lake at Disney World.
It was a shocking, horrific week of events that has left us heartbroken, numb and weary of the next story in the news.
And Apopka was by no means immune from the tragedies. Miguel Angel Honorato, Sr. and Eddie Justice were both killed at The Pulse Nightclub shooting. Both men are from Apopka.
The community was staggered, but then it went into action.
By early Sunday afternoon, there were lines around the Blood One Blood Bank on Park Avenue. It became so crowded that they asked the donors to return on future days with an appointment. The details of that event can be read here.
Later that evening, the community continued its support for the victims with a prayer vigil held at Kit Land Nelson Park. Despite it being a quickly organized event, an estimated crowd of 75 attended. The details of that event can be read here.
During the week, offers from local businesses and churches poured in for free limousines, funeral services, counseling and flowers. The City of Apopka offered two free burial plots.
At the Wednesday City Council meeting, Mayor Joe Kilsheimer expressed his thoughts on the events of the weekend.
"We have two funerals of Apopka victims coming up this weekend. They are brothers and sisters and they had brothers and sisters. One was the father of three children. Our community is devastated. Earlier in the day, Mayor Teresa Jacobs (of Orange County) called and asked if I could attend a press conference that brought together elected leaders and faith leaders throughout Orange County. We came together in a spirit of love. The Central Florida community is in need of healing right now. And that is the message that I want to convey. I'm going to wear the rainbow ribbon in honor of the victims."
On Thursday night there were two prayer vigils; one at Phillis Wheatley Elementary School and another at Journey Christian Church.
About 300 people attended the service at Wheatley Elementary. They came to pray, light candles and mourn for the life of Eddie Justice, one of the 49 people killed last Sunday in the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Eddie's mother, Wilamena attended. Several community leaders spoke and prayed, including Pastor Hezekiah Bradford, Pastor Richard King, County Commissioner Bryan Nelson and Apopka Police Captain Jerome Miller.
Over 400 people attended the service at Journey Christian Church. A member of the Orlando Police SWAT team was present, along with an ORMC Emergency Room nurse. The service began with a moving video from gunshot victim Christine Grimme. The video can be seen here.
"We mourn these victims tonight," said John Hampton, Lead Pastor of Journey. "Everybody is somebody's everybody."
Other pastors at Journey prayed for the first responders, the medical community, the leaders of Central Florida, and the LGBTQ community.
On Friday night the final vigil was held at Kit Land Nelson Park. Elected officials, pastors and the community grieved for the victims and their families for the fourth time in a public setting.
The streets of Heaven are far too crowded with angels after the events of this week. Central Florida will never forget these tragic events.
But in another corner of Heaven, perhaps in a small office somewhere off the beaten trail, there is a scribe who writes the history of Apopka. He wept as he wrote the names of Miguel Angel Honorato Sr. and Eddie Justice early on Sunday. They departed their families much sooner than they should have.
But as this scribe dips his quill into his inkwell and writes the history of Apopka's last seven days, he is smiling. Even in tragedy this town leads with its heart, pours out compassion and charity, and keeps moving forward.
God bless you Apopka.
Photos from the first vigil at Kit Land Nelson Park
Photos from the Wheatly Vigil
Photos from the Journey vigil
Photos from the second Kit Land Nelson Park vigil (courtesy of the City of Apopka)
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