More than 70 members of the William & Mary community assembled at the Wren Building Monday night to honor the victims of the shooting attack in an Orlando nightclub that claimed 49 lives over the weekend.
“We organized this vigil because for many queer people, we cannot turn to our families to express anguish over homophobia, transphobia and intolerance,” said Pallavi Rudraraju ’17. “Spaces like these are all we have. We organized this vigil to process our grief and to come out stronger and more vibrant. We hope that after you return to your homes and dormitories tonight, you do not forget.”
Students were joined by faculty, staff and community allies at the hour-long vigil sponsored by student LGBTQ club William & Mary Lambda Alliance.
“For a lot of us, this month of pride has become a very confusing one, tainted with pain, with sorrow, with anger, with loss,” Jacob Alter ’17 said in opening remarks, before Katie Baldewin ’17 read the names of the 49 people who died in the attack.
“We have to live for them [who lost their lives],” one student said.
Standing on the Wren portico in a rough circle that spilled over into the courtyard, community members shared their reactions, hopes for the future and a fierce refusal to live in fear.
One student turned to her grandmother after seeing members of her small hometown disparage the LGBTQ community on social media after the attack.
“Everything I heard from her was, ‘You do not live in fear and I’m very proud of you,’” she said.
Another student talked about how she came out to her mother just hours before the attack.
“The best thing we can do to move forward is to live life with radical kindness, to be openhearted, to engage in conversation, to ask questions,” she said.
One man identified as an ally, but said he hadn’t always been.
“People do change, people can change,” he said. “I think part of not living in fear is daring to hope, in the midst of so many disappointments, that people can indeed change and find love at the center of their faith, of their being.”
The group also expressed gratitude for the supportive community they have found at William & Mary and in Williamsburg.“We stand together as a family, a family that is stronger than blood because we chose to stick together despite our differences and all odds,” Alter said. “So tonight, and tomorrow, and this month of pride, and for the many years to come, we will stand together. We stand with those who are with us today and with those who are not."