For the past three years, Christopher Hansen’s face and story have become tied to a tragedy in Orlando. Now he wants to turn today into a celebration of the LGBTQ community’s strength.
Hansen became one of the most widely known survivors of the Pulse shooting, captured on film wearing an American flag T-shirt and distinctive hat in images published around the world.
Now Hansen has worked with cities around the country to issue proclamations honoring Reflections of Resilience Day. It’s a day Hansen says will honor all those individuals killed or wounded by acts of hate, violence, and suicide to create acceptance and awareness.
From Orlando to West Hollywood, cities will light up displays and celebrate the enduring LGBTQ spirit in various ways.
“This has just been an incredible journey,” said Hansen.
Celebrations in various forms will take place in Sedalia, Mo.; Salem, Mass.; Little Rock, Ark.; Orlando; Warrensburg, Mo.; New Haven, Conn.; Knob Noster, Mo.; Annapolis, Md.; Portland, Ore.; Excelsior Springs, Mo.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; and Eureka Springs, Ark. He’s worked with leaders in Denver and hopes something comes through by the end of the day there as well
The effort in one sense started last year when Hansen lived in Arkansas and wanted North Little Rock to light a bridge to honor Pulse victims a day before the two-year anniversary of the shooting.
The experience showed Hansen that proclamations can be obtained quickly. So he started the journey of making a national movement.
The cities participating aren’t completely random. In fact, you can trace the story of Hansen’s life leading up to Pulse in the various communities.
“It’s not just random,” he said.
On the list, you can find the Arkansas community where his father was stationed. You can see the Wyoming community where a still-adolescent Hansen lived, located about an hour away from where Matthew Shepard was killed in 1998, a crime that touched countless gay men coming of age in the 1990s and shook Hansen to the core.
But as Reflections of Resilience has grown, various proclamations have also explicitly recognized significant moments in LGBTQ history, not just Pulse but the Upstairs Lounge fire and the Stonewall riots.
Hansen hopes today will provide a way other survivors of tragedies and those who lost closed ones to violence will find an avenue for healing.