‘Love wins:’ Bradenton remembers victims of Orlando nightclub shooting

Michael “Miss Mikey” Lamb started writing the moment all the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre were named.

In a purple notebook with rainbow-lined pages, the spoken-word artist penned a 5.5-page poem, spilling passion and anger onto the pages. He read it to a crowd of about 300 people three days later at a Wednesday night vigil in Bradenton, dedicated to the 49 victims who lost their lives and 53 who were injured at the Pulse nightclub shooting Sunday morning in Orlando.

“When I say ‘love’ you say ‘wins,’” Lamb said before he began.

People of all ages gathered at the Bradenton Blues Festival site on Bradenton Riverwalk to the event hosted by Eleuterio “Junior” Salazar, a OneBlood employee and Bradenton mayoral candidate.

“It’s time that we do something and we show how strong Bradenton can be,” Salazar said.

A child handed out yellow and red daisies while some people held “Free Hugs” signs. While children laughed and played in the water park right next to the grassy site, vigil attendees listened attentively to speeches, songs, prayers and Miss Mikey’s poem.

“Tonight, Bradenton stands strong for our brothers and sisters in Orlando and beyond,” said Valerie Fisher, Prism Youth president.

In a speech dedicated to those who lost loved ones, Layla Ali Robles Rodriguez said the affected Orlando families are not alone.

“We may be a small town, but our word is strong,” she said.

Children released 49 balloons — red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. A single purple balloon was in the shape of a heart.

Nelson Ferrer, lead pastor of Alive Church, led the crowd in a final prayer of the evening. He read 1 Corinthians 13, which he said he usually uses for marriages.

“It’s our job as a church to rally our congregation and love,” Ferrer said.

Bradenton resident Adrian, who asked to not use his last name, said his son is an entertainer and it could have been him. Adrian said he attended because everyone needs to come together.

“There’s a lot of unity left in this country and it’s not hate-based,” he said.

As the sun set and candles were lit, Salazar transitioned into the final section of the vigil. As he named each victim with a biography depicting what was known in the last moments of their life or what they had just accomplished before losing their lives, the crowd began to thin.

Perhaps it was getting too long. Perhaps there were too many.

The last name Salazar read was a friend: Shane Tomlinson.

“Shane, we’re gonna love and miss you, buddy,” Salazar said.

Singer Shantal Norman ended the evening by singing Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.”

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse