Students and faculty gathered around the Bell Tower Thursday evening to hold a vigil for the victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting almost two weeks ago.
It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history leaving 49 people dead and 53 injured. The city paid tribute to the victims last Monday with a vigil attended by thousands.
“[This vigil] is important for our community and the Latinx community,” said Rebecca Schatschneider, director of Beasley School of Law Communications. “I didn’t lose friends, but my friends lost friends.”
At 6:30 p.m., volunteers handed out candles. Daniella Gallo, a senior computer sciences major and a member of the LGBTQ community, said: “We see you, we hear you.”
Her words relaxed the crowd: crossed arms opened, shoulders relaxed and people stepped closer. This encouraged many to speak up and remain at the vigil, despite getting soaked in a downpour of rain.
Before Gallo stepped off, she read the names of the victims and passersby paused to listen to the names, some stopping to participate in the rest of the vigil.
“The first emotion I felt was confusion,” said Tiffenia Archie, interim assistant vice president for the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership. “I am so deeply pained that someone could have so much hatred in their heart. I am now more committed to the ideals of inclusivity, and I will try to create a more inclusive environment.”
President Theobald attended the vigil but did not speak to the crowd.
“It’s very rare that someone in Communications doesn’t find the words to say, but this is one of those times,” said Scott Gratson, director of Communication Studies at the School of Media and Communication.
“It’s not that I didn’t believe it,” Gallo said to the crowd. “It’s that I didn’t want to believe it. I encourage you all not to only seek out safe spaces, but to create them.”
“I am not done being sad yet… one year ago I was at a gay club in Orlando and it was the happiest night of my life,” said Reanne Maskart, senior theater major. “I can’t help but think they felt safe, and for that to be ripped away.”
“I don’t feel safe anymore.”
Ayah Alkhars can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @rollingintheAYA.