New Yorkers — from elected officials to ordinary folks — gathered at vigils Monday in Manhattan, Nassau and Suffolk to stand up for victims of the bloodiest mass shooting in the nation’s history.
“Though you may not have the power to donate, whether it be blood or money, you always have one thing: the power to love,” said Xander Simon, 17, who spoke at a candlelight vigil that brought up to 500 people to Bay Shore a day after the shootings in an Orlando nightclub. “The power to spread our message of peace and acceptance throughout our community and world.”
There were at least three vigils and other observances planned in the area just a day after a gunman entered the gay-oriented Pulse nightclub with a gun blazing, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others.
In Manhattan, at The Stonewall Inn, considered the birthplace of the gay rights movement, thousands of New Yorkers held their lighted cellphones aloft while the city’s and state’s top elected officials implored the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to stand tall and be unafraid.
“This is a beautiful sight — New York coming together,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said. “We say to our enemies, we do not fear you. We pity you. You have not put terror in our hearts. You have unified us.”
In Mineola, officials draped the iconic rainbow flag, symbol of gay pride, across the front of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building, where about 100 people gathered to pay their respects and reject violence.
“Our solidarity confirms there is zero tolerance for hate crime; zero tolerance for bias and zero tolerance for terrorism,” Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said at an event that drew Sikh, Hindu, Christian and Muslim leaders and other Long Islanders to the county seat in Mineola.
Ibrahim Negm, the senior adviser to the Islamic Center of Long Island, spoke at the Mineola vigil, saying the lone gunman was not acting in the name of Islam and did not represent Long Island’s Muslim community.
“We will not allow extremism to hijack the good name of Islam,” Negm said.
In Bay Shore, the crowd listened to speakers, prayers and songs, and observed a moment of silence amid a considerable police presence at the headquarters of the Long Island LGBT Network Community Center on Park Avenue.
“Your Long Island family stands in solidarity with you,” said the group’s chief executive, David Kilmnick, to a crowd that held hands and shed tears together as they held candles. “We are Orlando.”
The crowd erupted in applause as Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini assured them that Suffolk police support the LGBT community on Long Island.
Jozie Guiliano, 55, of Selden, a mobile barber, said she was upset when she heard about the killings in Orlando.
“It was really sad when I first heard,” she said. “It’s really hard in the community itself to just try to be who we are, especially in Long Island.”
In Greenwich Village, a grieving LGBT community’s leaders vowed to fight for federal laws that will ban assault weapons and respect the LGBT lifestyle.
Cuomo implored vigilgoers to not be afraid. And both Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio rallied those in attendance to come out in force for the city’s Pride Parade this weekend.
Molly Bangs, 24, of the East Village said the Orlando shooting massacre had her feeling “hopeless and pessimistic about our world and how people are lacking a sense of a shared humanity.” But, Bangs said, the vigil brought “back hope that there is a majority of us who feel that we are in this together.”