ATHENS, Ohio (WCMH) — Hundreds of people gathered on Ohio University’s College Green Monday night for a vigil, standing in solidarity with victims in the Orlando shootings.
For people at the vigil, the event was not about being angry or blaming anyone for the violence in Orlando. Many said it was simply a time to be together and to recognize that the LGBT community still has a long way to go.
“We will not live in fear,” Delfin Bautista said.
The words are a rallying cry in the days since the violent attacks. For Bautista, a native of Miami and the director of OU’s LGBT Center, the shootings hit close to home and initially seemed unbelievable.
“This is just a sick joke,” Bautista said. “And then to realize that, no, this was a reality, it just sort of was very numbing.”
From students to staff, members of the LGBT community and allies, the vigil was a time to remember and to mourn.
“Everyone’s here to comfort,” Hayley Trachtenberg, a junior at OU, said. “To say, it’s not OK but we will be OK.”
For Katie Meisky and her wife Lindsay Radomski, the violence in Orlando is devastating. The couple married about a year ago. Both are OU alumnae and current staff members.
“It’s terrible,” Meisky said. “With any minority community, you really feel that sense, that greater sense of community where it could be anyone. It could be people you know, it could be us, it could be anywhere.”
“It’s a big part of our lives and it’s really sad to see something like this happen,” Radomski said.
But many said the attacks in Orlando would not stop them from celebrating Pride Month.
“It’s unfortunate because Pride started because of violence in a nightclub,” Meisky said. “So this is kind of how our history goes. So hopefully things start to change.”
Kelly Rabideaux-Huq said she is married to a Muslim man, has a daughter who is bisexual and family members who are lesbians. She said her father and two oldest children live near Orlando.
Initially, Rabideaux-Huq told her daughter she did not want her to go to Pride following the attacks in Orlando. But Monday’s vigil changed her mind.
“That’s one more thing that they get to win, one more voice they have,” she said. “Takes away our voice.”
Those at the vigil said they wanted to remind others that people are people.
“We’re not some abstract political agenda but just people trying to live everyday life,” Delfin Bautista said
I don’t know what it’s like to live in Orlando, but I do know what it’s like to be scared to be publicly queer and I don’t think that that is unique to a particular place,” said Jasper Wirtschafter, an OU alumnus and Athens native.
Many at the vigil said seeing a big turnout was a step in healing from the violence and a chance to know they are not alone.
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