By Tia Lynn Ivey
In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history that was carried out in Orlando, Fla. by a deranged gunman in a gay nightclub called Pulse earlier this month, candlelight vigils have been orchestrated all over the country to express solidarity and sympathy for the 49 people murdered and the 53 people severely injured in the terroristic shooting. A candlelight vigil took place right here in Madison on Friday, June 17 at Hill Park, orchestrated by David Key, pastor of Lake Oconee Community Church, and Justin Armistead, the former president of Morgan County High School’s Anti-Bullying Coalition. A small group gathered at the park, donned in rainbow attire to offer their thoughts, prayers, and sympathies for the victims and their families. The Madison Candlelight Vigil aimed to publicly stick up for the rights and value of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) community.
“We have to deal with the hate that is represented by this act. It is an act of terrorism and a hate crime. We need to eliminate both in our American society. LGBTQ folks don’t need to fear going out dancing and gatherings. It shouldn’t happen.” Said Key. “We want to tell the victims of Orlando that they are not alone. We stand with them and for them. Unequivocally.”
“If it could happen in Orlando near ‘the happiest place on earth,’ it could happen in Madison, Georgia, the ‘number one small town in America.’ We want to show solidarity with the victims in Orlando,” added Key.
“ I want to say I am deeply sorry for the victims and my heart and thoughts go out to the loved ones that loved them so much. It is a great thing that we are doing in Madison by hosting a Vigil for the Orlando Mass Shooting,” said Armistead. “We need to have more love in our hearts than hate and judgment.”
The national tragedy has sparked also sparked an outpouring of donations for the victims and families of loved ones killed. According to CNN, Equality Florida, a nonprofit LGBT civil rights organization, has set up a GoFundMe account for the victims and their families. Equality Florida spokesperson Ida Eskamani says all of the money donated will go to the families. To donate, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund.
As of press time on Tuesday, the fund has received over $5.6 million in donations. The National Compassion Fund (http://nationalcompassionfund.org) has also setup a “long-term needs” effort to care for eligible victims and their families over the course of years. The Fund will work alongside the Equality Florida effort to “ensure fair and transparent distribution of the donations received.” Also according to CNN, “Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announced the creation of the OneOrlando Fund (https://www.oneorlando.org) in response to the Pulse tragedy. This fund will focus on strengthening the Orlando community and helping it recover. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) put out a call to raise money through LaunchGood (https://www.launchgood.com/project/muslims_united_for_victims_of_pulse_shooting). This fund will distribute their donations directly to the OneOrlando Fund.”