Perhaps the most raw moment of the Democratic National Convention came Wednesday night when a woman from Polk City, Florida, stepped up to the lectern.
“It takes about five minutes for a church bell to ring 49 times,” Christine Leinonen said as she began to weep. “I know this because last month, my son, Christopher, his boyfriend, Juan, and 47 others were murdered at a club in Orlando.”
Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center fell to silence. On the convention floor, a Florida delegate waved a rainbow flag.
“Christopher was my only child,” Leinonen continued. “As I used to tell him, ‘You can’t do better than perfect.’”
Even before Leinonen finished speaking, thousands of delegates rose to give her a standing ovation.
His paternal grandparents met and fell in love in a Japanese internment camp, “so it was in his DNA that love always trumps hate,” she added, using one of Clinton’s campaign catchphrases.
Her only child, who was known as Drew, was “a big supporter” of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Leinonen said. That’s why she came to the convention: to speak on his behalf and advocate for Clinton and her support for gun control.
When Leinonen had her son, she was a Michigan state trooper. “When I went into labor, the hospital put my off-duty gun in a safe,” she said. “I did not argue. I knew common-sense gun policies save lives.”
“The weapon that murdered my son fires 30 rounds in one minute,” Leinonen continued. “I’m glad common-sense gun policy was in place the day Christopher was born. But where was that common sense the day he died?”
She concluded with a hug from two Pulse survivors — Brandon Wolf and Jose Arraigada — who then walked her off stage.
They wrapped their arms around each other.