ITHACA, N.Y. — Over 50 community members gathered Saturday night on Cornell’s Ho Plaza to honor the 49 victims of last weekend’s mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.
The five Cornell students who organized the commemoration urged attendees to use the space to both mourn and celebrate the lives of the mostly Hispanic, LGBT victims of last Sunday’s massacre.
At the beginning of the event, speakers took turns giving testimonials that expressed feelings ranging from dejection to hope.
One man emphasized that the shooting targeted a pride event at a gay club—meaning that all of the victims were either LGBTQ or straight allies.
He asked, “If that’s not a safe place, then what is?”
Other attendees contemplated the future, urging each other to challenge homophobia and gun violence.
“The truth is that you all have the same expression on your face,” said one woman. “I think it’s an expression of sorrow, hope and perhaps a desire to see things change.”
Once the open mic concluded, members of Cornell’s Glee Club and Chorus performed two moving tributes to the Pulse victims, including a Kwangali-language funeral prayer from Namibia.
The vigil’s organizers then read aloud the names of each victim, lighting a candle and holding a moment of silence in each of their honor.
Kathy Zoner, a self-identified lesbian and the chief of the Cornell Police, was invited to light a row of candles.
By sundown, all of the names were read.
Many attendees stayed on Ho Plaza well into the night, exchanging hugs and listening to celebratory music until all of the candles were snuffed out by the wind.