ORLANDO Hundreds of people have gathered on the lawn outside Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for a 7 p.m. vigil.

Mourners have arranged dozens of colorful bouquets of flowers on the grass in front of the stage alongside candles, framed photographs, handwritten tributes, American flags and balloons.

Near the podium, a pink T-shirt on a black clothes hanger bears the message #prayfororlando and an array of inspirational messages.

The vigil was organized by Equality Florida, a civil rights organization headquartered in St. Petersburg that represents the Sunshine State’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“We are here today to, quite simply, mourn those that we have lost. This was an unspeakable tragedy. Nobody saw this coming,” said Hannah Willard, Equality Florida policy and outreach coordinator.

“This has shaken our community to its very core -- especially because it happened in a traditionally safe space for gay and transgender people,” Willard said. “Nightclubs are more than just places where we go dancing, the LGBT community. They are often the very first place where folks like us feel like our authentic selves,” she said.


Rick Neale, Florida Today

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