Attending The Lake Eola Pulse Vigil
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Politics and Activism

Attending The Lake Eola Pulse Vigil

The strength of the LGBTQ+ community deserves recognition.

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Attending The Lake Eola Pulse Vigil

This past Sunday marked the one-week anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. This tragedy was awful enough to have an effect on people all across America, so to have it happen less than a mile away from my home was especially impactful. I decided to attend the Lake Eola vigil, meant to bring together the community and pay homage to those who lost their lives that night.

I knew that the turnout was going to be huge. The Facebook event had over 50,000 responses and more were sure to show up. Lake Eola is a symbol for downtown Orlando; the iconic fountain located at the center of the lake can be seen in everything from Orlando Snapchat filters to the Orlando Pride’s logo. The lake is also less than a mile away from Pulse nightclub -- and just a two-block walk from my mother’s house.

On any normal day Lake Eola is busy, but I had never seen it this way before. With over 50,000 people from across the country attending, the sidewalk was packed and the streets were shutdown to handle the overflow of people gathered to remember the victims. You would think that attending an event with so many people from across America would make anyone feel like an outsider, but the sense of community was something I had never experienced.

Strangers became friends and confidants as emotions ran high. People openly wept and were comforted by those around them, some displayed poster boards reading “Free Hugs” to comfort those they had never met before. The support and kindness displayed within just the first 10 minutes of the vigil were enough to move anyone.

The most incredible part was the huge involvement of Muslims and Sikhs in the vigil. Lining the path that traces the 23 acres of lake inside, Muslims and Sikhs handed out water bottles, snacks and flowers to anyone who passed by. Their presence at the vigil was a reminder that hating a person because of their religion is unwarranted. No matter what the shooter at Pulse claimed to be, his beliefs do not define the masses.

Throughout Lake Eola, walkers were handed flowers by different people and organizations to set at the memorials of each victim. Smiling pictures of those lost at Pulse sat above massive piles of flowers. Their families wore T-shirts to show just how many people were affected by the loss of one person.

The vigil was a massive display of how a community is capable of coming together to support those undergoing tragedy. While hundreds of people were in tears, there were thousands dedicated to supporting, comforting and encouraging those around them, whether they had known each other for years or minutes.

Attending the vigil highlighted another extremely important lesson to be learned from the tragedy at Pulse. A community like this deserves to be encouraged. It should not take the murder of 49 people to bring out support. While dozens of politicians and businesses have come together to mourn those lost, some are the same people that fought to take away the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. An interview by Anderson Cooper shows how Pam Bondi, Attorney General of Florida, fought to take away rights from the LGBTQ+ community, but now she claims to support it. Florida governor Rick Scott has made strides in the past to demolish LGBTQ+ rights as well, but has attended vigils and sent out comforting statements to the community.

Yes, the tragedy at Pulse was able to bring together a society in a beautiful and heartwarming way, but you cannot only support a community when they have been attacked. You must support them in their daily lives. To preach hate, but then pretend it never happened, so you look good in the media is an insult to those whose lives were tragically cut short that night at Pulse.

The Lake Eola vigil emphasized what a supportive community is capable of in its darkest of times. It should not be forgotten just because there is not a headline-worthy tragedy occurring every day.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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