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Vigils honored victims of the Orlando shooting

Emilio Vicente (right) Winston Crisp (guy in suit) Mark Kleinschmidt Lydia Lavelle
Emilio Vicente (right) Winston Crisp (guy in suit) Mark Kleinschmidt Lydia Lavelle

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.

“I thought of this when I thought of the 49 people, dancing, partying and hanging out with their community.

“This easily could have been any of my friends back in the day. It’s really hard to wrap my head around.”

Monday evening, the United Church of Chapel Hill held its own interfaith vigil where Terri Phoenix, director of UNC’s LGBTQ Center, spoke.

“Maybe it isn’t so much the words that are said and exactly what happens in spaces like this that’s sacred — maybe what’s sacred is holding the space in and of itself,” Phoenix said.

“To me, the target chosen for this violence is indicative of the larger violence that each of these communities face on a daily basis. And that’s where I think we should target our efforts, after we pause to grieve.”

Jenny Schultz, youth pastor at United Church, urged legislative action.

“We should unite and collectively decide to commit ourselves to legislative advocacy until our children — black, white, Latino, Karen — can play in our backyards, in our neighborhood streets, at the mall, in the movie theater, at a social club, in classrooms, without fear of gun violence,” she said.

At Tuesday’s vigil in Carrboro, Winston Crisp, vice chancellor for student affairs, noted that both orientations held for incoming first-years this summer have taken place around the time of mass shootings — first a shooting at the University of California in Los Angeles, then the shooting in Orlando.

“I hope as we all join together to grieve together, that we find renewed energy for the fight ahead of us — because we have no choice but to throw into this with everything we’ve got and turn this tide,” Crisp said. “We’re gonna fight this fight ‘til there’s nothing left.”

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know has been affected by these events, UNC Counseling and Psychological Services can be reached at (919)-966-2281.

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