Standing Thursday at the base of the Survivor Tree at the National September 11 Memorial, a solemn tribute was made to the 49 people killed in Orlando — all remembered as victims of hatred.
In a show of solidarity with the LGBT community, about 200 people held a vigil and a moment of silence Thursday at which rainbow-colored ribbons were tied to the pear tree, which was salvaged from the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center.
The Survivor Tree has become a symbol of resilience and renewal. The tree was nursed back to life and replanted across from the cascading waterfalls where the Twin Towers once stood. Today the memorial site has become a shrine where millions come to remember the devastation of terrorism and hate.
“Orlando, you will come through this,” said Joe Daniels, president and chief executive of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Like the nearly 3,000 people killed by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, Daniels said the people gunned down in Orlando were “innocent people who were living their lives and who should have come home.”
After the vigil, Linda Maurer of Middle Village, Queens, said: “These people did nothing to this man. It was just like the 9/11 terrorists who killed innocent people they didn’t know. My sister went to work and never came home.” Maurer’s sister Jill Maurer Campbell, 31, worked in the south tower and her remains were never recovered.
“I know the pain the [Orlando] families felt when hoping their loved ones were on their way home,” said Jean Maurer, Linda and Jill’s mother, who brought her grandson Jake Campbell to the vigil. Jake was 10-months old when his mother was killed.
Also present at the vigil were members of the FDNY Fire Flag, an LBGT group that represents the department’s gay firefighters. “I feel support but it is no consolation for the community that continues to be victimized,” said FDNY firefighter Brooke Guiman, a member of the Fire Flag group. “This year we celebrated marriage equality, but that is not enough. We still have a long way to go to achieve acceptance.”
Anthony Hayes of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis group, said the Orlando killings will bring a “solemn” mood to next week’s Pride Parade.
“The streets will be filled with people coming out to show support, to be counted and be seen,” said Hayes, who helped organize Monday’s Stonewall Inn vigil in Greenwich Village, where at least 8,000 people attended.
Lenore Mills, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, a Red Cross volunteer on Sept. 11, 2001, said she came to the vigil to stand against gun violence.
“I feel for the LGBT community,” she said. “I can’t understand how we keep getting into this same situation. I am totally against assault weapons. There is not a war on the streets of the U.S. We don’t need to be carrying guns. People should be allowed to live their lives without fear.”
She was carrying a sign of encouragement: “Keep Dancing.”