York Stands with Orlando vigil Thursday
A candlelight vigil remembering the 49 lives lost inside Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday morning is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Cherry Lane Park.
Organizers said Monday they wanted to get the word out that the event will be taking place, but speakers and performers are still being confirmed. In the event of rain, the service will move to Heidelberg United Church, at the intersection of West Philadelphia and Beaver streets.
"It is definitely a rain-or-shine event," organizer and LGBT activist Carla Christopher said.
An additional 53 people were injured when lone-gunman 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.
Across the country Sunday morning, news of the attack spread over television and social media as the body count climbed from an initial report of 20 dead to 49, making the attack the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Christopher called the attack terrifying, given the venue and the manner in which the assault unfolded. She and her organization, Equality Fest, are partnering with Amnesty International and York Progressive to put together Thursday's ceremony.
Participation: Several community artists, entertainers and local politicians are expected to attend, speak and perform, Christopher said. A reading of all 49 of the victims' names, which should be made public by Thursday, will take place. Attendees also will be able to light candles, craft memorials and share their emotional responses to the shooting with one another.
"This will be a very participatory event," Christopher said.
She added that the time for speeches and debates about what to do going forward will come, but a time for mourning has to be allowed to take place before that can happen.
Mourning: "We really want to emphasize that this is about the ... people who died," she said. There will be plenty of time to politicize the peripheral issues of gun control, immigration and Islamophobia surrounding the incident, she added.
"Right now, today, we just lost (49) members of our family, and this is about them right now."