York City vigil honors Orlando victims
People were scrawling on index cards, writing messages of support, of sadness, of hope.
Dover Township resident Skylar Camerman showed what he'd written in what looked like pink highlighter: a short message saying that York, Pa., stood with the 49 victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub Sunday in Orlando.
"I didn't know what to say," said Camerman, who identifies as pansexual.
But it turned out he did.
"Most people think, 'Gay marriage is legal now, so why are people still complaining?'" he said. "But it's so much more than that."
"There's so much more than that for equality," he said.
Camerman was one of the many who packed into Cherry Lane Thursday night in York City, filling the seating area and more for a vigil for the victims of the attack.
The large-scale hate crime, which left an additional 53 wounded at the Pulse nightclub, was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and left the most dead of any terrorist attack since 9/11.
Carla Christopher, a local LGBT activist who founded York Equalityfest, said the messages, such as the one Camerman wrote, will make their way down to the nightclub.
"We are actually gathering people's thoughts, prayers and messages and sending them to Orlando," said Christopher, who spoke at the vigil.
She said they'll scan them to get them in digital form and then put them in a photo album and send the album to Florida.
Christopher spoke first at the vigil, the rainbow LGBT flag flapping slowly behind her on the humid Thursday evening. As she stepped up to the microphone, someone shouted, "Love you!"
"We are all in shock and pain, frustrated and raging," Christopher said.
Early Sunday morning, Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida, entered the gay nightclub and opened fire with an AR-15 assault rifle and 9 mm handgun. A hostage crisis ensued that lasted almost three hours before Orlando law enforcement agencies breached a wall of the establishment and killed Mateen during a gun battle. Law enforcement has said Mateen called 911 several times that night, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist organization.
For Hanover resident Sabrina Valente, there was never a question of whether she would come to the vigil.
"How can you not?" she said, a rainbow scarf wrapped around her neck. "This is my community."
She said this was an important part of the mourning process.
"You moan, and you weep, and then you go to work," said Valente, who said it made her glad to see how many people had shown up.
State Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, and state auditor general Eugene DePasquale, a Yorker who held Schreiber's job previously, both addressed those in attendance, expressing solidarity with the LGBT community.
"It's important to mourn, and it's important to comfort," Schreiber said to The York Dispatch.
York City Muslim activist Rabiya Khan spoke at the vigil.
"Let me tell you as a practicing Muslim, he (Mateen) knew nothing about Islam and nothing about the holy month of Ramadan," she said, receiving loud applause.
She, too, expressed solidarity with the LGBT community.
"What guides us is love; what binds us is love; what heals us is love," she said.