Saturday, January 23, 2021

Vigil held at State Capitol for Orlando massacre victims

June 13, 2016
East Lansing resident Aidan Wood, left, weeps during the candlelight vigil for Orlando on June 12, 2016 at the Capitol in Lansing. Lansing Association of Human Rights hosted the vigil for people that wanted to gather and mourn for Orlando's victims of violence.
East Lansing resident Aidan Wood, left, weeps during the candlelight vigil for Orlando on June 12, 2016 at the Capitol in Lansing. Lansing Association of Human Rights hosted the vigil for people that wanted to gather and mourn for Orlando's victims of violence. —
Photo by Nic Antaya | and Nic Antaya The State News

The month of June is national LGBT Pride Month, but instead of celebrating life and love, the country is mourning the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history.

On Sunday morning in Orlando around 2 a.m., Omar Mateen opened fire in Pulse, a gay nightclub, killing 50 innocent people and injuring 53 or more.

In response to this tragic event, Alysa Hodgson, Michigan State alumna and president of the Lansing Association for Human Rights, and her board arranged a candlelight vigil at the State Capitol to mourn the victims in the Orlando shooting.

“I need to be around my community,” Hodgson said. “I was struck with this disbelief and terror but also felt this real need to be connected to my community, which is sort of through conversations that happened with people on my board and community and that is sort of how this was birthed.”

Gay, straight, bisexual or anywhere in between, the Lansing community came together Sunday evening as a united force rather than divided.

“I’ve heard from people who move here that say Lansing doesn’t have a community,” Hodgson said. “Well tonight will prove them wrong.”

As board members of the Lansing Association for Human Rights stood on the stairs of the State Capitol to raise awareness and rise above the hate, there was a sense of sadness and comfort in the atmosphere. As some cried for their loved ones, some cried for the unconditional love the Lansing community showed Sunday evening.

Assistant Director of the MSU LGBT Resource Center, Alex Lang, was present.

“Today has been a hard day,” Lang said.

Alex is from Florida and his sister lives in Orlando along with close friends.

“We’re suppose to be celebrating ourselves and yet at this point in particular, we have to remember those who have passed and not in a celebratory way,” he said.

Lansing Mayor Virgil Bernero attended the vigil with his family to mourn the lives that were taken in Orlando.

“On such short notice this is amazing, this was completely organic,” Mayor Bernero said.

Mayor Virgil Bernero spoke Sunday evening at the vigil about spreading love and not hate and coming together as a community.

“The greatest lesson of my life is, love your neighbor,” the mayor said.

Throughout the candlelight vigil, the love and compassion the Lansing community has for one another was extremely apparent. At such tragic times, the community came together to spread the word of love.

“The statement from the LGBT leadership about embracing the Muslim faith and their brothers and sisters– that brought a smile to my face because the only way ISIS wins is with division,” Mayor Bernero said. “I think and hope from this finally a record number of 50 dead Americans, maybe perhaps now this 50 added to the others this will compel some action by the politicians to say, enough is enough. ISIS have to rely on us to carry out their agenda. If we refuse to hate, we defeat them and we only do that by spreading love.”

At 7 p.m. the candlelight vigil concluded, though many stuck around to share their stories and thoughts during this difficult time.

“I’d like to say to not let what happened in Orlando keep you home. Stay out, go to Pride, go to nightclubs, go to shows and just be you and don’t let your fear scare you,” Hodgson said.

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