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Chicagoans remember the Pulse tragedy
by Matt Simonette
2017-06-12

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Center on Halsted's Hoover-Leppen Theater was filled to capacity June 12 as LGBTQ community members and allies came together to mark the year that has passed since the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

An overflow crowd watched on television monitors in the theater's lobby as the program began with remarks from Joanna Thompson, the Center's community outreach and engagement coordinator. She explained that the vigil was planned around the motto "Honor them with Action" and encouraged audience members to add that as a hashtag to social media postings about Pulse to honor the 49 individuals who were killed that early morning.

Chicago Commission on Human Relations Commissioner Mona Noriega read a letter sent by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He called the massacre "an attack on our fundamental values—values that we share as Chicagoans and as Americans. It was an attack on culture and community. It was an attack on love, life and our inherent liberties therein. So in honoring the lives and legacies of those taken, we are challenged to stand against violence and against hate. We know this was not just an attack on one city or on one venue. It was an attack on all of us.

"We know that most of the victims of this massacre were mostly Puerto Rican and Latino. So today we stand in solidarity not just with the LGBT community, but also with the Latino community. Today, and every day, we must stand up with everyone who feels marginalized, and let them know that they are part of our Chicago family," Emanuel added.

Noriega offered her own reflections on the event, explaining that the shootings were "clearly a hate crime" and that the community had lived through collective traumas before, such as during the AIDS crisis. She praised the many communities that banded together to support one another in the wake of the Pulse incident and remarked on the "powerfulness of knowing that when I am attacked … I don't stand alone."

Mike Morales, who attended University of Central Florida, recalled his horror when he had heard about the shootings. He was not able to contact friends and family members on the that day since phone lines were so busy.

"The fear, anguish and anger were hard to contain," he said. "… Forty-nine souls tragically passed away and we've mourned their lives ever since."

The vigil, Morales concluded, reaffirmed "our commitment to love and our absolute rejection of hatred."

David Gauna, a member of the Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action ( ALMA ) Youth Advisory Board, spoke further about the episode's impact on Chicago's Latinx community. He said that he'd often loved Latin nights at gay clubs "because that's when I had the best chance of meeting someone like me."

Gauna said that the days following the shootings were marked by "pain and confusion" but also a tremendous amount of support.

"I will not go back to a life of fear," he added.

After a performance of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" by the Windy City Gay Chorus and the Windy City Treble Quire, Rev. Joy Strome of Lakeview Presbyterian Church offered remarks. The names and ages of all 49 of the Pulse victims were then read, each punctuated with a bell toll.

Finally, forty-nine candles were lit and passed to many in the audience.

"Our movement is guided by 49 spirits, who are dancing, who are voguing, and who will continue to live through us," said Gauna.



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