Three loud pops, in succession like gunshots, riddled the muggy air in downtown Orlando Tuesday night.
People walking on South Orange Street scurried for cover. Workers in a pizza shop raced for the kitchen or ducked behind the counter. There was brief chaos, confusion. I saw it personally.
Fortunately, it was false alarm. The pops turned out to be fire crackers from a prankster. But memories of the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting here last June are hard to forget.
That was when a disturbed young man with a high-powered rifle mowed down patrons of the Pulse club, just a mile down away. The one-year anniversary of the Pulse massacre is an event to recognize, not celebrate.
Orlando’s reputation as a dynamic boom city will forever be soiled by the stain of the shootings. The worst terrorist-related mass murders since 9/11. Innocent lives at the popular gay club succumbed to the evil of Islamic terror.
Civilians and workers in most any other town would not react the way they did in glitzy downtown Orlando Tuesday night. The wounds of tragedy heal slowly. Especially when they get reopened each time attacks occur here or within allied countries.
It didn’t take long to remind us how real the violence is — even within the U.S. The next morning, a middle-aged man with a rifle shot up a baseball practice involving federal legislators in Alexandria, Va. This time, the shooter was reportedly motivated by political hate.
Some 20 Republican lawmakers were practicing on a neighborhood baseball field for a charity game they play each year against their Democrat colleagues. The gunman opened fire in a reportedly direct attack against Republicans within a nasty political environment in our country.
Steve Scalise, the House majority whip, was shot in the hip and was in critical condition. Several other Republican legislators and their staff were also struck with a hail of bullets. Two Capital police officers there for Scalise’s protection bravely shot back and eventually apprehended the shooter, saving many lives.
This is not another diatribe against guns. It’s a commentary about random violence and terrorism and how much they have infiltrated our everyday lives. Our lives may never be the same, at this pace.
Orlando and Alexandria have no connection other than they are now sites of mass shootings. Both are great cities. Orlando is growing like a city on HGH, fueled by Disney’s magic, while Alexandria is a bedroom community to Washington, D.C. Many lawmakers live there.
Federal politicians are shaken by the attacks on Wednesday morning. The violence hit close to home for them. Now, there are calls for a truce to the incendiary and the incessant bickering between the two parties.
Let’s embrace any efforts toward unity. The political climate is as explosive as a thunderstorm on hot summer afternoon in Florida. The heated, charged rhetoric benefits no one. We have a two-party system within one country. And we have to start acting that way on both sides.
Let’s hope this is a new reality.
(Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor and a chartered retirement planning counselor who lives on Amelia Island. His financial columns appear in several newspapers in North Florida and South Georgia. He has published a book, “All About Money,” of columns he has written over the past 20 years. The book is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)