Solidarity After Tragedy

Here’s a link to a partial list of people fatally shot during the Pulse attack.  The list will be updated later:

Last night a candlelight vigil was held in San Francisco’s Castro District, to remember the people who died in the attack at Pulse in Orlando.

A small number of people in the crowd gave the impression they were there just to party.  Grinning people were taking selfies, and someone who was drunk accidentally slammed into me and nearly knocked the lighted candle out of my hand.  I won’t dismiss all of them as jerks.  Some may have socially inappropriate ways of coping with horror, and although their behavior was offensive they might have been as traumatized as the rest of us.

I hope the person who nearly caused me to set fellow mourners on fire seeks treatment soon and has a better life because of it.

That said, for the most part we were serious adults, focused on showing respect for people who had suffered the unthinkable the night before.

The wind was blowing, so people kept approaching each other to get help relighting candles.  It was frustrating for anyone who found the candlelight symbolism important, although it gave us a chance to bond.  It wasn’t a place where we were likely to find new, long-term friendships, but for a couple of hours we were a community.  I don’t remember how many people relit their candles by holding their candle wicks next to mine, or how many people borrowed my lighter. I just remember feeling comforted by the human contact and hoping there was some way the men and women who died in the nightclub could feel it, too.

By last night, only a few of the people who didn’t survive the shooting had been identified by name in news reports, and those people were acknowledged.  After hearing each name, we said “We remember” and held up our candles.

At the Castro vigil, David Campos emphasized that hate crimes against Muslims must not be tolerated.  I couldn’t hear every word of his speech, but heard a mixed reaction from the audience.  At first, there was a small gasp.  By the time he was done, though, the loud cheer must have been heard for blocks.

I spent most of the Castro vigil moving back and forth in the alcove outside the movie theater entrance, which was sparsely populated. After the candle was nearly knocked out of my hand, I kept a safe distance from anyone who was oblivious.  The alcove wasn’t a good place for listening to speeches going through speakers at Market & Castro, so I missed a lot of what was said.  However, there was no mistaking the introduction for Mayor Ed Lee, and although a loud boo came from the audience they didn’t quite boo him off the podium.

After we marched to City Hall (which was lit up in rainbow colors for Pride Month), one woman in the crowd asked us to include her friend, Eddie, who hadn’t survived the attack.

“We remember,” we said.

I still don’t know exactly who she was talking about because more than one person with that first name is on the list of victims.  I know why that bothers me.  Every person deserved an individual acknowledgment, but it was impossible to do that so soon after the tragedy.

One especially memorable thing from the Market Street March to City Hall should be shared here.  Inbound traffic lanes were closed so we’d have a wide space, while outbound traffic flowed freely — albeit without left-hand turns.  Some motorists showed support for the vigil by honking their horns, and one taxicab driver — apparently of Middle Eastern ancestry — made a peace sign gesture.

As long as the world has the people I encountered last night, the human race is not hopeless.



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