On June 14, organizing members of the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans* People of the University of Toronto (LGBTOUT) and the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) came together to hold vigil for the victims of the Orlando shooting. Candles were distributed to attendees. A young man dipped his unlit candle towards another. A burgeoning orange glow spread through the crowd.
Julian Oliveira, executive member of LGBTOUT, read a statement acknowledging Indigenous people’s unceded land — on which the vigil was held. Standing beside him was Andrea Bermudez, who read aloud the names and ages of each of the 49 victims. They remembered that this was not only an attack on the LGBTQ+ community but also an attack on the Latinx community. A moment of silence was held, but it was broken every few seconds by quiet sobs and choked tears.
Shortly after, a fabric banner was presented on the steps of University College, which read: Love over hate; pride not fear. The phrase was wordlessly echoed among participants. They were invited to leave written messages on the banner. As the banner began to fill, speakers approached the microphone. Words of love and support were shared equally with those of anger and grief. A bisexual woman reflected on the sacrifices of the older generation, of Stonewall and the subsequent riots. An older gay man recounted the same experiences and hoped to never repeat them. A gay Latino immigrant remembered the violence the LGBTQ+ community faced in his country. He remembered an additional 300 lives lost. He barely finished his words.
The orange glow of candles and tea lights grew as the night went on. People listened to the thoughts and words of their peers. Occasionally, a sob would break out, only to have the nearest individuals, regardless of relation, provide solace. Yet amongst the tears, the palpable grief and suffering, there stood the warmth of hope. Both the LGBTQ+ community and Latinx community would carry on.
Time passed and the microphone was packed away. As the vigil wound down, a final rush of individuals came to sign the now crowded banner. Too late to see with moonlight alone, final words were written under candlelight.
To the innocent murdered victims of the Orlando shooting, know that you are not forgotten. You are remembered. Your sacrifice is not in vain. Rest in peace.