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Friday, November 16, 2018

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Students, faculty gather to remember Orlando victims at vigil


Rev. Laureen Suba conducted a moment of reflection at the Orlando vigil. |  Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

Candles flickered on an altar, one for each of the Orlando victims, as UH students and faculty gathered noon Wednesday in the A.D. Bruce Religion Center for a vigil honoring the lives lost on Sunday.

Rev. Jackie Collins of the Campus Ministries Association, one of the five community ministers conducting the service, gave the prelude with a moment of silence. Attendees listened to the ministers read ten victims’ names at a time, with a commemorative bell ringing after each one.

For Collins, it was important to give people an outlet to express their feelings.

“Each and every one of them made an impact,” Collins said. “They were people: they were sons, they were daughters.”

During the vigil, packets of tissues were passed from person to person as Rev. Laureen Suba of United Campus Ministries spoke of the significance of the rainbow in biblical scripture. Attendees sat in contemplation as Suba said a prayer for all those affected by the massacre in the Orlando nightclub.

“The rainbow has become a symbol for a storm, a storm that has passed,” Suba said. “Friends, the storm has passed for those who died in Orlando.”

As many of the victims were identified as Latino, Guillermo De Los Reyes, an associate professor of the Department of Hispanic Studies, felt saddened and frustrated by his personal connection to the tragedy. De Los Reyes attended the event in order to express his sympathies for everyone involved in the shooting, but questioned the likelihood of government officials taking action.

“People forget, before anything, this is a hate crime,” De Los Reyes said. “This massacre and many others across the country could’ve been stopped, but we just don’t want to do anything as a country.”

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Attendees wrote notes for the victims on a commemorative banner, which was taken to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. |  Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

In a period of reflection, attendees volunteered to stand and vocalize their prayers for the victims and their families. Several individuals shared their grief and anger over the tragedy.

Moores School of Music senior John Rehak sat beside one of his professors in the ceremony. He felt grateful for the opportunity to gather among the campus public in a time of sorrow.

“I thought that it was awesome to see people from across the UH community at the vigil to honor the victims in Orlando,” Rehak said. “Seeing people from all races, religions and backgrounds in one space to show their support was extremely humbling.”

As the vigil concluded, attendees signed a banner placed outside the chapel with prayers and tributes to the victims. The banner, scattered with various handwriting, was then taken to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

“Love is love,” one attendee wrote.

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