By Mia Furtado
On Monday evening, June 13, one day after the horrific event that occurred at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the PFLAG Denver chapter
hosted a vigil for the lives lost the day before.
Like many, when I woke up Sunday, June 12, my world was rocked to the core with sorrow and disbelief that another extreme act of hatred and violence happened in the land of the equal and the land of the free. As I sat mute, next to my wife, unable to break away from my phone, I became so overwhelmed with emotion that I knew that I was not okay and the only thing I needed and wanted was to be with my community. I emailed the PFLAG Denver board and suggested we host a vigil, and before we knew it, the event took off like wildfire.
Once word of the vigil spread, local news stations asked for written and in-person interviews and the RSVP totals continued to climb on the Facebook event page. We were expecting 20 to 50 people max but as the day progressed, that number soared. Along with great public interest, donations and services were offered left and right. Both the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus and Harmony: a Colorado Chorale sang during the ceremony. Also, trained ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters reached out to offer to interpret the entire program so that queer members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing could attend and participate as well.
The speaking line-up for the vigil was brief, with seven speakers offering guided meditations and prayers in which the attendees voiced the need for acceptance, love and compassion. Jean Hodges, PFLAG National President, and Dave Montez, Executive Director of ONE Colorado, spoke. In addition, the names of the victims were read aloud by Blanca Leos, PFLAG Denver president, and a moment of silence was observed to honor each victim while candles were lit. News reports covering the vigil estimated that attendance was around 2,000 people despite the thunderstorm and rain showers that challenged the outdoor venue at the Cheesman Park pavilion. As the storms began to break and the skies cleared, a rainbow arced over the pavilion, a sign which many took for serendipity and celebrated with cheers. Huddled under umbrellas and ponchos and even standing in the rain without any cover, Denver’s community stood for an hour and a half in solidarity with the victims, families, and community of Orlando to mourn the senseless act of hate. Many shared their grief at the event through tears, words and embraces.
As the vigil came to a close, mourners created their own memorials by leaving flowers, signs and candles surrounding the pools, stairs and flower gardens of the park. Donations for the families were accepted and over $1,000 was donated. One mourner spoke to members of the board, thanking them for hosting this event because she was from Orlando and knew many of the victims.