Commemorative vigils were held at the Carrboro Town Commons and United Church of Chapel Hill, as well as several events in Durham, around the Triangle and across the nation.
In Sunday’s early morning hours, 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire on patrons at Pulse, a popular LGBT bar and club. Mateen, who declared allegiance to the Islamic State in calls to 911 responders during the shooting, killed 49 people and wounded at least 53 before he was gunned down by law enforcement.
“I see myself in what happened. I could see myself going to Latin Night at Pulse. I see my face in many of the faces of those that died,” said Emilio Vicente, a UNC alum who spoke during the gathering at the Carrboro Town Commons on Tuesday, which hundreds of people attended.
Vicente emphasized the community Mateen targeted was primarily Latina and Latino LGBT people of color, saying it would do a disservice to the victims not to acknowledge that.
“While we wait for action or inaction from politicians, we should look inward,” he said.
“What are we all doing for those who are marginalized, to make sure we really are a community if we say we are?”
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, who became North Carolina’s first openly lesbian mayor in 2013, recalled the history of LGBT rights in the country — as well as her own history as a young member of the LGBT community.
“Many of my generation knew what it was like to say ‘I’m going to the bar this weekend’ — everyone knew what bar you were going to. For me, it was a three to four hour round trip, simply for the opportunity to dance and party and be with my community. It was really the only place where you could be yourself. You felt supported, and you felt safe,” Lavelle said.