Luis Vielma, 22, was one of 49 people murdered on June 29 in the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. However, he — and every one of the people who died that night — is more than just a number in an event that will likely go down in history as a pivotal moment in one of the most unstable periods of time in our nation’s recent history. Each person had a spirit, a culture, a community.
One community that was embraced by Vielma and has embraced him in return is the vast and longstanding community of “Potterheads,” fans of J.K. Rowling’s epic Harry Potter series.
Vielma was not only a fan of the series but also an employee at its Universal Studios theme park, “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.”
The Harry Potter series as a whole revolves around the themes of light versus dark, good versus evil and the power of living with love. These are values the community has rallied behind in light of this recent tragedy. A compassionate fan created a “Pop!” vinyl figurine of Luis in his “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” uniform.
J.K. Rowling touched the hearts of Vielma’s loved ones when she sent flowers to Vielma’s funeral along with a note that stated, “To Luis, who died for love. You will never be forgotten.” At the theme park itself, friends, coworkers and fellow Potterheads held a vigil in Vielma’s honor. They held their lit wands to the sky, honoring Vielma the way Hogwarts students in the series honored the deaths of characters like Cedric Diggory and Albus Dumbledore.
It’s easy to look at fan culture, in all of its mysterious and unknown glory, and see it as strange and overzealous. But, it might be worth your time to look further inside the walls of a Potter fan’s world. The people playing in “muggle” Quidditch matches, writing fanfiction and dressing up for midnight premieres are welcoming everyone into a community that values the power of love and the spirit of courage in individuality.
In dark times like these, when the United States is divided, when progress seems exhausting and impossible, the idea of a having a hero like Harry Potter seems pretty wonderful. However, the real secret to Potter’s heroism is that he never asked for it. He is a character who has faults and can sometimes be controlled by fear and anger but lives his life in the pursuit of truth and love. Those are the simple qualities that can allow any of us to become a hero. Luis Vielma lived his life in truth. He loved whatever, and whoever, his heart led him to.
In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” when Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter stand at the crossroads between life and death, Dumbledore
turns to his beloved student and says, “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.”
Vielma certainly lived his life in love, will you?