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Each year I publish the “Year in Review,” a comprehensive look at many of last year’s accomplishments, milestones and challenges. This edition of the “Year in Review” will continue with that format, but for this report, I want to begin by sharing my personal thoughts about the defining events of June 12 at Pulse –– about what we lost, and what we learned about the heart and soul of our community. My prayers continue to be with the families, friends and loved ones of our 49 brothers and sisters lost in the early morning hours of that day. My prayers also go out to those who were physically injured, as well as those who were emotionally traumatized.

Nothing can ever erase the harm, and no good comes from hatred and violence. Yet, as dark and devastating as June 12 was, my spirit was lifted and inspired by the strength, the unity, the compassion and the love that poured forth from all parts of our community in the wake of this nightmare.

We focused our attention on what each of us could do to help. And the world focused its attention on us. The world watched as we mourned, and through our mourning — we rallied with the common goal of supporting our LGBTQ and Hispanic communities. The world watched us respond to the victims’ families, those who survived and those with broken hearts and broken bodies. The world saw our first and second responders at their very best. The world witnessed the extraordinary outpouring of acceptance and love that came naturally, from within the very fabric of our community.

Through it all, the world gained a much fuller understanding of Orlando. But it was not just the world’s perception of us that changed — it was also our perception of ourselves. Through our response to the greatest attack we’ve ever withstood, the greatest loss we ever experienced, we’ve learned something wonderful about ourselves. We’ve known that our acclaimed culture of collaboration is vital to our region’s economic success, but in the wake of Pulse, we learned that it is our culture of compassion that makes Orlando such an incredible place to live.

As we embark on a New Year, I have no doubt that we will continue to support those still grieving and healing. But to honor those who perished at the hands of intolerance and hate, may we each vow to do our part in nourishing our extraordinary culture of compassion, acceptance and love of humanity — in all of its rich diversity.

Teresa Jacobs
Orange County Mayor