Gay and straight alike, New Yorkers came together to send their love and support to the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando.
From memorials outside the landmark Stonewall Inn and elsewhere to tweets and statements by elected officials, a mood of total shock and sadness over the worst mass shooting in U.S. history mixed with resolve to stand strong in the face of terror and hate.
About 350 people gathered at 6 p.m. Sunday for the memorial at The Stonewall Inn, which featured candles, flowers and prayers for the 49 people killed and dozens more injured in yesterday morning’s nightclub massacre in Florida.
Supporters placed dozens of flowers in front of the bar, along with rainbow flags, cards and signs.
The crowd included all ages and all sexual orientations. There were several police officers stationed there to ensure that the memorial went smoothly.
The crowd sang, “We Shall Overcome,” then had a moment of silence.
Crystal Finch, 32, of East Harlem, a lesbian, attended. “This is the core of gay rights in New York. I had to be here. I was devastated. I hope they (Orlando victims) know we are all supporting them.”
John L’Ecuyer 35, a consultant, and his husband Zack Hatton-Brown, 41, who works in finance, were supposed to celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary yesterday, but decided to come to Stonewall, which is near their home, to show solidarity.
“It touched home based on what the city experienced on 9/11,” Hatton-Brown said.
L’Ecuyer added: “We’ve been here 17 years and we know how it feels. I remember after 9/11, seeing pictures of people around the world in solidarity. That helped us.”
The rally ended as the crowd chanted, “We got your back, Orlando!” and then sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
“People want to gather; this is a place for victories as well as, sadly, losses,” said Stacy Lentz, Stonewall’s co-owner, earlier in the day. “This wasn’t just an attack on LBGT Americans. This was an attack on Americans.
Emily Green, 31, of Greenwich Village, who is straight, was walking her dog outside Stonewall when she heard the news, and said the only way to counter the hate is to spread a message of tolerance across the world.
“We are so far away and New York is in our own universe but we can still lend our support,” the Australia native said. “This country is already going in the right direction for LGBT rights and we need to move forward.”
Rebecca Triglianos, 34, came to the bar earlier in the day with her partner Nicole Martin from Westchester. She said the location and other gay clubs and bars, like Pulse Orlando, were more than just a place to have fun with other LGBT patrons.
“When you are different and you’re not protected in your homes, in your families, in your schools and within your state, you need to have these safe places to socialize but also to take care of each other,” she said.
Clergy members and about 50 supporters gathered outside Judson Memorial Church across from Washington Square Park to sing songs from their respective congregations. The Rev. Fred Davie, of Union Theological Seminary, said, “We want to remember them [the victims], to acknowledge them and never forget them, and never forget what happened to them.”
In Jackson Heights, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and her fellow council members joined LGBT and Muslim leaders at Diversity Plaza, to condemn the attack and call for tolerance.
City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who is gay, said, “We have to fight this together. This is a crime of extremism and extremism leads to this type of violence. I wanted to respond quickly. [I wanted to show that] … the Muslim community and LGBT community and all communities are united in our efforts against extremism.”
Jacqueline Rozado, 18, of Elmhurst, is the youth council representative for Dromm.
“I’m a very big advocate for LGBT rights and human rights in general. I was horrified,” she said.
“It’s also liberating for the cause to show homophobia is real and it’s an issue that we have a responsibility to deal with,” Rozado added. “Especially in New York City, with a large LGBT population and large minority population in general, it’s especially important that we all have a strong united front and responsibility to act on this issue.”
Other elected officials in the city expressed outrage over the shooting. Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered flags to fly at half staff in honor of the victims and City Hall lit up in rainbow colors to represent LGBT pride.
Staff members hung a rainbow flag off the second-floor balcony of City Hall in the afternoon.
“I can only imagine what they’re going through right now, the pain they are feeling. Once again we stand in solidarity, as New York City knows so well what this feels like to be the victim of a terror attack,” de Blasio told reporters.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also ordered all flags across the state to do the same.
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the injured and their loved ones during this unimaginably difficult time,” he said in a statement.
There will be a second vigil at Stonewall Inn on Monday night, at 7 p.m. Thousands have RSVP’d on Facebook.