June 14, 2016

Athenians Gather to Remember Orlando Shooting Victims


Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones

On Monday night around 7 p.m., roughly 150 people gathered at the Arch on UGA's North Campus to hold a vigil for the 49 people killed in Saturday night's shooting at Pulse, a gay dance club in Orlando, FL. 

The shooting was carried out by Omar Mateen, an American-born citizen with possible ties to extreme Islam who was also reportedly a regular at the club. It was the most devastating terror attack in the U.S. since 9/11.

Liz Larson and Maureen McLaughlin saw that no vigil or tribute had been planned for the people of Athens to mourn the victims, and on Sunday began putting together the event. “I think it’s incredible. I mean, we started the event yesterday. I think it’s great there’s a lot of LGBTQ people, all races—I don’t think there’s another town like Athens,” Larson said. 

Maria Kindt of Athens band Family and Friends brought several local musicians together for the vigil, playing folk music leading up to the service. Reading a prayer she wrote specifically for the victims of the attack, Karen Slappey, vicar at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, began the tributes. 

God of Mercy and Compassion: You see works of hatred and violence against your children and you weep.

Today we come together recognizing that we are all created in your image. As a community we pray for the LGBTQ community and those who experienced first-hand the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL.

For the injured, we ask for recovery and healing.

For the dead, we pray the light perpetual will shine upon them. Grant them eternal rest and peace.

Protect all of us from violence, but especially those who know cruelty because of their sexual orientation, or gender identity. Keep them from the weapons of hate.

Turn the hearts of the violent away from evil and to bring them to full awareness of the damage that they do.

In places of darkness, bring light.

In places of hatred, bring love.

And to those who are ignorant, bring knowledge and repentance.


Slappey and another local minister, Renee DuBose, reached out to Larson and McLaughlin when they heard the vigil was taking place. They wanted to speak non-denominationally in order to include all mourners' faiths.


Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones

A member of the vigil read the John Donne poem "Death be not Proud" before the names of 33 victims were read aloud by three people who took turns reading from the list. Larson held a small bell that she rang after each name, and as she finished the last of the 11 names she read, she choked back a few tears. 

Since there is no final list of all the victims' names yet, 50 seconds of silence were observed, during which time prayers were said and thoughts of love sent to the families of those killed or injured. Accompanied by vocals and percussion, the crowd passed around pages with the lyrics to the hymn "We Are a Gentle, Angry People" and sang together in remembrance. 

DuBose called those standing beneath the Arch to action, urging them to find an organization, to do something and be active, asking, “How many times must we go to the graveside and wonder who’s next?”


Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones