When I got to work Sunday morning, I was smiling and happy and had a Selena Gomez song stuck in my head. My plans for the day were to go to yoga class, meet up with my fiancé and then go to The Dali Museum to see the last day of the Disney/Dali exhibit.
Then I saw the screens in the satellite control room; Police lights on top of multiple vehicles in front of a building I recognized: Pulse Nightclub.
I turned up the volume on the monitor: Sirens. Screams of pain. Shouts offering their help. Popping.
Instantly, I went into robot mode. I handed out microphones, set up the studio for the broadcast, and got my show rundowns. I got through the morning shows just fine until about 8:45am. My fiancé, my wife to be, texted me to check in on me.
My heart sped up. I felt my head spin. Almost immediately, my anchor asked me "Are you ok? You look pissed off."
Thank all higher powers for resting bitch face.
"I'm good." I responded quickly. I wasn't good.
After the shows had ended, I asked my director if I was needed to stay late for a breaking news cut-in or possibly just to help. He said I was cleared to leave.
Normally when I drive home from work, my car is bumping loud music, the windows are down and the sunroof is open.
I drove home in silence.
I got home and sat with my dog, River, for 10 minutes without moving. It felt like she knew what happened. She put her head on my leg and sighed heavily as I turned the television on to see what the latest was.
I sat, stunned, for hours. I sat the same way I did when I was a 17-year-old college student watching the live coverage of 9/11 in 2001.
I just watched.
The Orlando Police held a press conference around 11:30am-12pm and that is when the victim count went from 20 to 50 people dead.
The press corp gasped.
The tears came then. I broke down and cried for what felt like an hour.
My mother called around 3:30pm and told me that I should come have dinner with the whole family, including my 2 year old niece. "Meet us at our house and then we can take one car over to your brothers," she said.
"That'll be a nice change, I could use some baby time right now." I thought to myself. I had a Tampa Bay Rays hat that I had won and had been meaning to give to my little niece, so I was relieved to see her. My fiancé and I drove to my parents house and car pooled to my brothers house.
We went into our usual routine when I finally got to there: She sees me and smiles, chats up a storm, begs to be read a book, etc.
A little while later, I sat there at the dinner table staring at this little, beautiful child. The images from earlier in the day, the non-edited, graphic ones that come over the feeds, bore into my brain. I looked at her smiling face and I saw the horrors from earlier in the day.
I started to breathe heavy and my fiancé put her hand on my knee to try and steady me. I was alright momentarily. How… how could this happen?
"I think we need to leave soon," I whispered to my fiancé and my mother. They both nodded, seeing the look on my face.
"Give Auntie a hug" my mother said. This little, adorable toddler walked up to me, and with the little strength I had left, I squeezed her and waited for my kiss on the cheek.
"I lub you Auntie" my sweet niece said, and then kissed me on the cheek with a smack of her lips.
That was the tipping point. I knew I needed to get away from my family at that point. In the car ride back to my parents house, the tears came down. I heard my fiancé talking to my mother about a funny cat video and I tried to focus on that.
"Samantha doesn't think 'shopping cats' is very funny," my fiancé tried to lighten the mood.
"Samantha doesn't think anything is funny anymore," I responded, flatly. There was silence for the rest of the car ride.
My mother hugged me when we arrived at their house. She held onto me for a minute and said "I love you, Samantha."
I shut down. I got into my car and waited until my mother wasn't nearby and started to cry. I felt like I couldn't breathe. My fiancé did all she could to calm me down. We got home a short while later and sat together on the couch with our dog.
Our tiny family.
I sit here now, trying to understand… But I cannot.