They stood shoulder to shoulder, some holding hands. Black. White. Gay. Lesbian. Young. Old.
Rainbow flags waved, candles burned and tears flowed.
Hundreds gathered in Miami Beach Sunday night at one of many vigils held across the state to honor the victims of the massacre at Pulse, an Orlando nightclub popular with the gay community. For many, the collective expression of grief was a first step to begin the healing.
“Our entire community has been hit very hard by this tragedy,” said Jessica Grau, 27, of Coconut Grove as she sat with a burning candle near a giant rainbow flag spread across the lawn. “Good people are dying for no reason at all.”
The hastily organized vigil, at Miami Beach SoundScape — where the New World Symphony’s popular “Wallcasts” are held, still drew hundreds of people, including politicians, police and LGBT community members.
“Today we are all part of the LGBT community,” sad Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine to a round of applause.”We are one against intolerance.”
Before the vigil began, Ric Ryan stood with his arm around his husband, Edward Guedes, shaking his head in disbelief before the service began.
“It could have very easily been us,” Ryan said. “It’s horrific.”
Guedes said they decided to come to the vigil because “you have to show support in some way.”
In addition to the vigil, attendees were asked to donate blood that would be sent directly to Orlando to help the victims recovering. Among those who donated: Mayor Levine.
“I encourage everyone to give blood,” he said.
Dana Lawrence, 31, from Miami, said she came to donate blood “because it was something tangible I could do.”
“You feel helpless,” she said as she waited in a line that was nearly two dozen deep. “This shows you there are still good people.”
A few hours before Miami Beach’s vigil, hundreds gathered in Wilton Manors in Broward County. Wilber Cerda, 40, told the Sun Sentinel that the shooting hit close to home because he had been at the same club last week and many victims were Hispanic.
“I am Latin. I want to stand with them. I support each and every one of their families,” he told the paper.
The Miami Beach vigil began with speeches from county and city leaders and LGBT activists.
“When we come together the country is the best,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. “Together we will continue to fight.”
The vigil ended with a moving rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine, led by Miami Gay Men’s chorus as attendees joined in and held their burning candles high.
“Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today ...”