The fatal shooting of 50 people at an Orlando, Florida, gay club on Latino night hit Lorenzo Cervantes hard. His words.
“The victims look like my family; they look like me” said Cervantes, a gay Latino man and the prevention director at the Pierce County AIDS Foundation. “But something has ignited in me, something that has said to me this violence toward anyone must stop.”
Cervantes was among the speakers at a candlelight vigil Sunday night that drew about 700 people to Tacoma’s Tollefson Plaza downtown to grieve the victims of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando fewer than 24 hours before. More than 50 other people were injured in the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
The vigil was put on by the Rainbow Center, a Tacoma lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer advocacy group.
“We are stronger together than we are individually,” Michelle Douglas, the executive director of the Rainbow Center, said earlier Sunday. “In times of sadness, it is important to come together.”
All of the people in attendance were feeling sorrow, confusion, anger and fear, said State Rep. Laurie Jinkins, a Tacoma Democrat, during her speech. But she wanted them to leave the plaza with two feelings: love, and a desire to act.
“It is love — it is love that has brought us everything good that we have,” said Jinkins, the first out lesbian to be a state representative.
Jinkins’ finale drew a big reaction from the crowd: “Act. Act. Act. Find the thing you love and act.”
Tacoma City Councilman Ryan Mello implored people to create change in state and national governments to improve the rights and safety of members of the LGBT community, and he read a statement from Mayor Marilyn Strickland, who was out of town.
Orlando may be about 2,500 miles away from Strickland’s office, but, “Many of us feel this was way too close to home,” she wrote.
In the audience, Grant Fagot couldn’t describe the impact of the fatal shooting of 50 people in the gay nightclub, something he read about just before going to bed early Sunday.
“I’ve been searching all day and I can’t find the right words,” said the 31-year-old Tacoma man, who identifies as queer.
He described the knowing half-smile he got from a neighbor, and the other person he saw at the store buying candles for a vigil held that night, who didn’t say anything except “See you tonight.”
Charles Reimers, who was wearing his sash as Mr. Gay Tacoma, was also in the audience. He, too, struggled to describe what happened in Orlando.
“It’s a sad day,” said Reimers, a Tacoma resident. “It’s sad and devastating.”
The vigil ended with a singing of “We Shall Overcome,” with about 500 people’s singing echoing through the amphitheater as the sun set behind the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center.
A chill blew through the plaza, but they sang on, standing together.