In front of a crowd of more than 100 people at Lake Eola Park Sunday night, a local shares his thoughts on the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub. Shana Medel, Central Florida Future
After a morning of anguish, an impending thunderstorm seemed like a minimal threat.
Throngs of Central Floridians gathered in Orlando’s Lake Eola Park last night to commemorate the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Even as it rained, Sarah Schumeker lit a handful of tea light candles alongside the lake. The 23-year-old said that even though she was pained by Sunday’s mass shooting, her “heart was so full” seeing the community unite and stand in solidarity with the shooting victims.
Schumeker held a sign with the trending hashtag #PrayForOrlando as she spoke to a crowd of more than 100 people. Through tears, she told residents that they are not alone in the face of tragedy.
“I kept thinking, ‘Who am I? Who am I to say something? I’m not someone to speak on behalf of everyone. But then I thought, ‘I am Orlando.’ You’re Orlando, and you’re Orlando, and you’re Orlando,” said Schumeker as she gestured at the attendees in front of her. “It’s OK to be scared, you’re not alone.”
While some passed out free iced water and sandwiches, Orlando resident Mitch Foster handed out small sheets of paper with a quote from psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
Foster, one of the organizers of the vigil, said he awoke at 5:30 a.m. to an influx of text messages about the mass shooting. He planned the ceremony in less than six hours.
“The city asked us not to do it, because their police forces were spread thin,” Foster said. “But we weren’t asking for police support. We weren’t asking for any help. We just wanted to get a group of friends together and hold each other and cry. That’s why we’re here.”
UCF alumna Kristen Sorgi and her friend Alina Taber arrived at Lake Eola wearing T-shirts with the words “Orlando Strong” printed on them. The women drove to the Florida Mall yesterday afternoon to custom make their shirts at Florida T-shirts Plus.
Sorgi, who lives in Casselberry, said she did not expect such a senseless act of violence to occur in the state she calls home.
“I’m at a loss for words. What can you say?” Sorgi said.
Strangers consoled one another by sharing thoughts and words of comfort. Amongst the Floridians huddling under the sea of umbrellas was Jason Kaiser, who moved back to Orlando in September after serving eight years in the Navy.
Kaiser said this attack does not and will not define the City of Orlando.
“That’s what it’s all about — all walks of life coming together. We’re so different in so many ways, but at the end of the end of the day, we’re all the same.”
Shana Medel is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaM@CentralFloridaFuture.com.