Hundreds gathered in downtown Birmingham yesterday evening to remember victims of Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people. A diverse group of faith leaders led those assembled in Linn Park in prayer.
“Our responses are what teach us how to live,” says Jennifer Sanders, a minister in Birmingham. She says the gathering was about healing, grieving and connection. “When we can respond by becoming a better community, and a stronger community, and better people, we, in turn, honor the lives that were sacrificed.”
The City of Birmingham marked the tragedy with a rainbow flag draping the entrance to city hall.
Sunday’s shooting came on the last day of Birmingham’s Pride celebration, in which gays and lesbians and their allies come together to honor the LGBTQ community.
“It touched me somewhere deep inside,” says University of Montevallo student Bethany Jones. “Having only come out only six years ago and just now going to my first pride…I feel like it’s one of my duties as part of this community to be here.”
Those gathered said it was a time to mourn the dead, but also celebrate love and acceptance with dancing and music.
“I hope to god it brings us closer,” says Gina Mallisham, LGBTQ outreach coordinator at Sidewalk Film Festival. “I’m really tired of everybody being split. Even within the LGBTQ community we’re split. And we need to come together. We need to bring the glue that keeps the country from falling apart.”
Monday night’s gathering ended with a candlelight vigil and a reading of the names of the dead, followed by a march around the park.