The heartbeat of the world was silenced Sunday morning at 2:00 am.

Hundreds of bullets painted the color of hate and pain inside of a gay nightclub in Orlando. Vibrant young lives were swept down the drain as the rain poured all night over crowds of confused and mortally terrified friends, siblings, mothers and fathers calling the names of their children. Their phones illuminated with loved ones’ faces, begging “Have you seen her? Have you found my son? Is my brother still alive?”

Authorities in the empty club, over three hours after the first shots were fired, said it was hard to hear themselves think over the unending choir of cell phones calling the 49 slain LGBTQ individuals laying lifeless on the dance floor. It was the chorus of families and friends, desperately waiting for an answer from a voice they will never hear again.

These are some of those loved ones.

This is no horror movie. This is our country in the wake of the most devastating mass shooting event we have ever been forced to endure. 49 young lives were extinguished, and 50+ more people still suffer through vital hours at hospitals, bearing gunshot wounds and unimaginable mental trauma. Many ask now: “What can we do?” How can we come together and rebuild our communities of gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual and queer brothers and sisters, who for countless years have fought for their right to live equally and pursue happiness, who just this weekend were targeted with murderous force; a community who has faced massive casualties at the hands of hateful bigotry for years, and now have been the intended subject of a massacre. How can we keep each other safe? How can we put an end to mass murders at the hands of hateful gunmen? How do we, as a country, as a community, respond?

We support one another, we grieve together, and we live life fully. The answer comes from gay pride groups and candlelight vigils all over the nation. Don’t let the fear push us back into the closet. Don’t let the heartbreak bring out categorizing anger where we place blame on those with other religions. We should not seek to pass the buck, but instead strive to fix the broken pieces of our government that allow dangerous people to lay their hands on firearms with intent to kill. We stay alive, we hold each other’s hands bravely and we dance like those who danced at Pulse nightclub Saturday night with the intent of coming together and celebrating life. We live our lives, however we choose to live it, bravely and for those who can no longer dance with us.

It may take a long time to feel safe again. For many, Pulse was a safe place that allowed LGBTQ brothers and sisters to dance freely and without shame, to wear what made them happy and make friends, a place to build lasting and loving bonds. This incident could not have happened anywhere. The gay community was the intended target. It could have happened at any gay club, or party, or parade in any major city, but it happened to Orlando. It happened to these 100 families.

It can’t happen again.

The gay community has endured a history of violence, injustice and terror. There are more statistics of death counts, homicides and suicides due to a person’s sexual identity in every country, rising every year, than is possible to count. We need more than sympathy, than prayers, than moments of silence. We need action. We need legislation put in place for common sense gun control laws. We need bans on semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 rifle used to gun down the people at Pulse, and the victims of the Connecticut massacre in 2012, and at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.

We need to let transsexual individuals use whatever fucking bathroom they are comfortable in and realize that they are not the danger. They are in danger, every single day, from random hateful individuals who want to kill them for being who they are. We need to protect each other. This massacre, this historic and tragic event, needs to be the marker to say “enough is enough”. Enough is enough. We need to stop dividing each other, by sexual orientation and religion and race, and we need to start protecting each other. Here are some ways you can help today:
• Donate blood. Wherever you are. It will help someone. Find a drive near you.
• Donate money. A GoFundMe account has been made for the victims and families.
Attend a vigil and come together as a community to show support for the LGBTQ family. While the Orlando city officials have asked to hold off on vigils locally to conserve their police staff and local funding at this time, there are plenty of ways to find a vigil near you no matter what city you are in.
Educate yourself on gun laws and options for gun control, and then search for petitions and action to communicate to our government the changes that need to be set in motion to end this current armed mass murder epidemic.

Stay together and fearless in this time of grieving. Love each other, support those who need and deserve it, and take action today. The nightmare is not over, people lay dying in hospital beds, children still grow up afraid to wear the clothes they are happiest in, men and women cannot choose to use the restroom they feel safest in, and many continue to hate, but change will be found in the wake of this terror. We will not fall back into our closets, into the lies, into the denial that robs so many of leading happy lives. We will take to the streets and light candles together, and share memories, and walk in parades and marches for causes that will one day, and already have, changed the world. We will meet together, and laugh harder and dance harder in spite of those who would rip our loved ones away from us. We will live our lives beautifully and full, and without fear, in honor of those who were persecuted for doing the same. We will never forget them, and we will change the world for them. Starting today.