Monthly Archives: June 2016

Cleveland’s Savior Came in the Name of the King

They came from Thailand and Australia and around the world and maybe even from the ends of the earth.  I came from Jacksonville.

Former Clevelanders and Believelanders made their way in droves unrivaled to see the transcendental transformation that Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team built for my hometown. The World Championship that seemed Biblical in proportion.  The magical and memorable reversal of fortunes for a city forever ridiculed for a trash-covered burning lake,  an unappreciated and neglected police department and a kidnapping-serial-killer surplus all within a few zip codes.   All In became an Earned to a greater Cleveland area where it truly seems that Nothing has ever been Given.  It took the Love of one man for a city and its people and their reciprocation to make the Impossible Dream Come True.  A perfect team in a perfect year on a perfect day for a perfect parade for all the world to see and remember.  A white cloud of hope and victory replacing the black cloud, the curse that had been my city’s legacy.

As the gods continued to align, they shone on the underestimated Cleveland Plain Dealer staff as they performed a Pulitzer Prize Worthy Quality performance as well.  From photos to stories to headlines to unprecedented distribution by every member of the inside staff, they Delivered.

The massive crowd of 1.3 million fans -celebrity, native and gangsta- crowded the city to celebrate their hometown heroes in person.  Shirtless JR, Kyrie and Iman, wrestling-championship-belt bedazzled Love, crowd-walking Mo and Rolls-Royce convertible throned Lebron,  (with his newly franchised presidential protection detail),  led the rest of the not-so-familiar famous members of the Cleveland team through the sometimes fan-blocked path in the streets of a confetti-gold downtown.

The eternal glow also enveloped the embattled Cleveland Police Department officers encompassed by Homeland Security Special Forces Detail as they served and protected all.  Even little lost children came to them.

It ended with a grateful and comfortable Lebron and company inviting his newly-noticed international family to celebrate in traditional locker-room style.  Fortunately, the 500,000 people transported to downtown via an all day $5 ticket on over-capacity RTA trains weren’t that angry when they couldn’t find their way home.  My brother and I were among the tens of thousands of other stranded travelers who walked out of downtown 9/11-style from a five-hour-long parade spent in the homestyle heat enduring no loaves, no fishes and no water shortly before shots rang out.  It was one for the record books that memories are made of.

 

 

One Orlando, One America

I just couldn’t wrap my head around the tragic unfolding of events in Orlando last weekend, so I got in my car and drove two hours to  the place some call the happiest city in the world.

As I watched the neatly manicured lawns of the neighborhoods pass by my window, I thought of how small the city seems when you get away from Disney and the amusement park area.   In the Sodo neighborhood, that spans several small city blocks near one of the outdoor malls, I was again surprised to see the size of the tight-knit, usually quiet walking community. The place where some stores are open 24 hours and neighbors check on neighbors, that was caught up in the worst mass shooting by a lone gunman in US History.

The bar at the center of the tragedy, Pulse Lounge, was at the end of a small road called West Esther Street,  close to a fire station and a few blocks from a children’s hospital that became instrumental in caring for the injured and saving lives during and after the gunfire.  Resident Donald Ato recalls having a pleasant short conversation on his birthday with one of the victims as the unwary patron left a car parked on the street across from his home and  walked down to the club that fateful night.  After the tragedy the car remained for days.

As FBI, local law enforcement, and other state investigators combed through the crime scene,  removed bodies, and went through a complex but organized system of identification and family notification, a large entourage of media with their vans, huge transmission satellites, and tents blocked off roads outside of the police-taped area.

Less than five miles away, located next to another outdoor mall, was a second sidewalk tribute with heart balloons, notes, and candles marking the location of the other headline shooting tragedy to come out of Orlando last weekend:  The Voice star and Adam Levine favorite, Christina Grimmie, was shot by another lone gunman as she eagerly greeted autograph seekers after a well-received concert in a little converted theater called The Plaza.  This just one night before the mass shooting.  I walked up to the door and saw a sign that read no concealed weapons are allowed on these premises.   As I approached the makeshift memorial to yet another young life lost that weekend, Sophia Sullivan, age 9, and her grandmother, Susan, arrived to pay their respects.  She placed balloons and read some of the messages, and then the two told me they had been at Christina’s concert.  Sophia had wanted to stay for an autograph, but her grandmother said no, and they left moments before the fatal shooting.

Sophia told me she wanted to come so that she could make sure Christina’s loss wasn’t overlooked in the shadow of the Plush Lounge headlines.

As I spoke to more people, both those present at these tragedies and those who came in for the cleanup,  I was left with two questions:  Will love ever overcome hate? And in places where guns are not allowed, how will we protect ourselves?   Long after the ringing of the victims’ unanswered cell phones has gone silent, I hope we will remember that life is finite and love is endless.

I hope we’ll also remember-and appreciate-that ongoing efforts to keep us safe are a full-time and dangerous job undertaken by many who tirelessly spend their whole lives in that endeavor, and that they do so in an environment often totally hidden from view.

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