I knew I had to attend, upon learning of the candlelight vigil at Reformation Lutheran Church for the victims of the Orlando, Florida mass shooting. The vigil was held on Monday night, the day following events in Florida.There was a steady flow of cars entering the church’s parking lot well before the start of the vigil. Upon entering the church each person was handed a program, a list of victims (not yet complete), a purple sheer ribbon, and a candle with wax catcher. My friend whom I had called and I found seats in the front third part of the church’s sanctuary.
Neither I nor my friend are members of the LGBTQ community. However, she like me was devastated by the killing of 49 people at the gay club Pulse in Orlando, Florida early on Sunday, June 12th. The shooter having been reported as pledging alliance to ISIL during a 911, had recently purchased a multitude of automatic weapons and ammunition. He had been under surveillance by the FBI but had been cleared. By example of various law enforcement agencies, I refuse to allow him any fame even in death and therefore choose not to use his name. In addition to the 49 people killed it was reported that 53 were injured.
On Sunday, June 12th in the evening many individuals gathered at a local long time gay club, Capital Club (not Capital City Club). However, I chose to attend the vigil at Reformation Lutheran Church a place of worship always receptive with loving arms to all. The cover of the program contained a rainbow colored heart with the #prayfororlando and the theme “Celebrating Love Winning”. Continuously the theme was love and light; where love pushes out hate and light removes darkness.Those themes were carried throughout the sanctuary, every other pew was decorated with candleholders encircled with multi-colored ribbons. In addition, the wall behind the altar was washed in rainbow colored lights.
The program opened with a litany and prayer with response in part asking God to “come fill our hearts…” The theme of acceptance and love continued with Words of Faith by Lutheran Bishop Herman Yoos; Words of Hope by Chuck Archie from the Harriet Hancock Center; Words of Love by Malissa Burnette from SC Equality; Words from Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of Rev. Daniel L. Simmons who was murdered in the “Mother” Emmanuel AME Church massacre; and Words from Islam by Chaudhry Sadiq from the Muslim Community.
Just as the program theme “celebrating love winning” alluded to the focus of most speakers was on love. Some words by Alana Simmons reflected lessons from her grandfather who often said, “If your religion doesn’t condone love then you need to seek a new religion.” With this lesson in mind Ms. Simmons has taken on the goal, “Show acts of love each day; seek someone different then yourself.” A variation of the message of love was said by a representative of Richland County Sherriff’s department Pauls St. John, “Pity means nothing compassion means everything. Compassion drives us to action.”
During the reading of 36 confirmed victims at the time of the vigil the church bells were rung. And for those names not read it was also rung. 49 people were killed by a man with automatic weapons. This may have been avoided if Republicans in Congress had not voted down legislation that included restrictions of purchase of automatic weapons. Since the vigil on Monday, there have been other vigils around Columbia. However, reexamining the debate about gun reform is being discussed again in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats are currently holding a filibuster. With the stronghold of the NRA on the Republican wallet it will continue to be a hard fight by Democrats to bring common sense gun reform. Still with a wave of effort by gun reform activist across the nation maybe just maybe meaningful legislation will pass.