49 Bells

Our college held a vigil for Orlando today. The audience was asked to stand and walk in rows to the stage at the front of the lobby, in order to ring a bell for each person who died in the Orlando massacre.

I thought for sure that I was sitting far enough back, that I wouldn’t have to ring that bell.

1 chime…5 chimes…20…40….49.

I was number 49.

49 bells. 49 innocent people dead.

49 people is so very many people, when you really see it. When you picture them all gone.

And I was devastated. I did not want to ring that bell. But then I turned around to walk off that stage, and I saw a hundred more people bearing witness. A hundred allies. A hundred good people, coming together at a small college in a suburb a thousand miles away from Orlando to say, “we hear you. We see you. We’re with you.”

And in the echo of that last chime, I thought, “this is the only answer.”

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