WSVN-7 (FOX MIAMI)
Candlelight vigils held across South Florida to honor Orlando shooting victims
WILTON MANORS, Fla. (WSVN) – Mourners are gathering across South Florida to honor the victims of Sunday morning’s mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando.
The City of Miami Beach is holding a vigil at SoundScape Park, located at 500 17th Street in Miami Beach, starting at 7 p.m.
That vigil, however, is only one of several that are taking place across South Florida on Sunday. A vigil in Wilton Manors got underway at 5 p.m. at the Pride Center at Equality Park in Fort Lauderdale, located at 2040 N. Dixie Highway. In addition, the Pride Center and the nonprofit organization SunServe are offering free grief counseling.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., spoke to mourners at the Wilton Manors event. “This tragedy is a reminder of the absolute necessity for us to remain vigilant,” she said, “that we can’t rest easy, that we have to continue to lock arms and lock hearts.”
The Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida also performed for attendees. Organizers will hand out candles after sunset to hold a candlelight vigil.
“If there is anything that we take from this horrendous tragedy, it is that we must not let hate win,” said Wasserman Schultz. “We cannot let the terrorists win. We cannot let them infect how we live our daily lives.”
Three women sitting at a restaurant near the Wilton Manors vigil shared their feelings about the deadly shooting. “I’m very sorry for what happened. I am mortified,” said one of them. “Something’s gotta be done. Somebody’s gotta care on a big, big level.”
Another woman said that those affected by the shooting go well beyond the LGBT community. “The unfortunate part of all of this, truly, is it doesn’t matter where you are,” said another woman at the restaurant. “As people, we’re a target, and that’s the problem we have in this country. It’s not just us. It’s you, him behind the camera, people sitting at this table, people sitting around us. It’s all who are being targeted. We’ve got to fix this country. Something’s wrong.”
The third mourner said she finds it hard to believe that such an incident has happened in 2016. “I was afraid to come out in the 70s, but that was the 70s, not now,” she said. “This is not going to keep us from enjoying our lifestyle and what we stand for, all the LGBTQs. We’re not going to stop, but this has to stop. This is nonsense, it is absolutely nonsense.”
In Hallandale Beach, the Baitul Naseer mosque, located at 208 N.W. 7th Court, is holding a prayer vigil at 7 p.m. with about 80 public officials and faith leaders as part of its Ramadan dinner.
In addition to condemning the attack, the local chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community sent a reminder that Islam is a religion that preaches reverence for all human lives. “It is sad, it is horrific to see such acts of violence taking place in front of your eyes,” said Dr. Khalid Minhas. “It can happen anywhere. It can happen, as we are seeing, all over the country and all over the world. But at the same time, it also hurts us as Muslims, because our faith is being hijacked.”
Minhas said he is especially heartbroken that the shooting happened during the holy month of Ramadan. “This month is to enhance your spirituality as well as your relationship with your fellow mankind,” he said, “and this is contrary to the teachings of Islam, that somebody goes out and hurts the innocent people. This has no room in the teaching of Islam.”
Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Rick Scott attended a candlelight vigil in Orlando, held at Iglesia El Calvario. He is scheduled to speak at the event.
In light of the mass shooting, the Miami Beach Police Department released a statement that read, “The Miami Beach Police Department is deeply saddened by the tragedy this morning in Orlando. Out of an abundance of caution, we will be increasing our patrols in and around locations frequented by our LGBT community. Our prayers and condolences go out to everyone affected by this tragedy.”
Miami Beach officials also encouraged the community to donate blood to help the victims of the shooting. A blood mobile will be parked in front of SoundScape Park from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Those who are able to do can donate during the vigil or visit the nearest blood bank.
The shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando left at least 50 dead and 53 injured, and has also been named the worst shooting in the history of the United States.
A hotline has been activated for relatives who need information about loved ones who may have been at Pulse at the time of the shooting: 407-246-4357.