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On Friday, June 17, 2016, UCF Project: SPIT honored the victims of the shooting at Pulse nightclub with a vigil that included poetry and songs in the Student Union. Paige Wilson, Central Florida Future

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The thumping noise of a steady heartbeat filled the heart of campus as the names of the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting were read aloud. Rainbow hues flooded the pillars and the stage of the Student Union, reminding the crowd that there’s color all around.

On Friday, June 17, about 100 students gathered in solidarity around the Pegasus seal in the Union for the #OnePulse vigil hosted by UCF’s Project: Student Poetry Initiating Thought to honor those who lost their lives in the deadliest shooting in the history of the U.S. on the early morning of June 12 at Pulse, a popular gay club in Orlando.

Spoken word, poems and songs turned the night into a creative outlet for expressing the pain and heartache the UCF community was feeling during the aftermath of the shooting. One theme was emphasized throughout it all: love.

“We need to have love guide us to healing, acceptance and, most of all, more love,” said Alexandra Peters, SPIT vice president and senior human communications major.

The UCF Gospel and Cultural Choir and student Diana Jang added music-filled interludes to the evening of remembrance.

When Jang heard the news Sunday about the events that happened at Pulse, a place she attends regularly, she sat in her room with an aching heart and felt compelled to write an original song.

Jang's lyrics struck a chord within the students as her angelic voice spread throughout the atrium; only a wavering note and the light touch of a keyboard echoed across the frozen crowd.

Filled with emotion, she sang, “We define strong. We define fate. Our unity is what makes us so great.”

Several SPIT slam poets took to the stage with their heads held high and their voices booming as their words of encouragement and strength lifted the crowd’s spirits. Peters said writing poetry is the way the SPIT members find healing, almost like their own kind of therapy.

“A lot of things in life don’t make sense,” Peters said. “But when I write a poem, everything makes sense; everything comes together.”

Once the performers were done, the floor was opened up to the audience. Project: SPIT wanted to give students a platform to feel comfortable to speak their mind, express their sorrows and feel united with other Knights and people from the Orlando community who were affected by the attack.

Students stepped up one by one to say what’s been resting on their hearts since Sunday. Many spoke of losing a loved one or feeling personally victimized because Pulse was a home for them or because of their Latin descent since the night of the shooting was a Latin-themed night at the club.

Though tears streamed down many students’ faces as they spoke, most ended with the hope of looking toward a brighter tomorrow and getting better one day at a time.

“We have to continue to smile, we have to continue to laugh. And above all, we have to continue to love — because that’s all we have,” said Michelle Valero, a UCF acting student.

The vigil concluded with strangers turning to hug those around them, showing that we are all truly “Orlando United.”

This story was originally published on June 18, 2016.

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Paige Wilson is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @ByPaigeWilson or email her at PaigeW@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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