On July 27, 2008, eight years next month as of this writing, a man entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, withdrew a shotgun from a guitar case, and began shooting. One congregant was killed before the gunman was subdued. He was motivated by the church’s tolerance for LGBT people, for people of color, and for different faiths.
TVUUC was not my church, but Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, where I attended regularly from 2001-2004, was a sister church. TVUUC hosted joint youth cons, which I frequently participated in. I had and still have friends who attend that church.
I heard about the shooting in New Port Richey, FL, following a several-year absence from UU activities. My first instinct was to get in touch with everyone I knew in Tennessee that ever stepped foot inside a UU church. Then, I came back to the church: I began attending the UU Church of Tampa, and have ever since.
TVUUC was not my first thought when I heard about the shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, less than two hours away from where I live. I think I had suppressed the memories. I wondered why I was so affected by the Orlando shooting, as I didn’t know anyone who was there (although I know several people who could have been.) I got angry when the local blood bank didn’t want my O+ blood. In a vigil service, I said that I wish I could have done more, that I felt humbled. Though I didn’t say it, I also felt ashamed.
I could have been at TVUUC that Sunday morning. If I had found a job in Tennessee, instead of moving to Florida to live with family, I may have attended church there. I could have been in that sanctuary that morning, listening to kids singing songs from Annie.
I don’t know how to feel.