Despite the stormy weather that carried on through the night, hundreds of University of Central Florida students gathered Tuesday night on every floor of the campus Student Union to pay their respects to the victims of the Pulse shootings.
As a symbol of solidarity, the Pegasus seal was decorated with yellow roses and candles brought by visitors to remember the victims.
The UCF LGBTQ-organized vigil was originally to take place at the Memory Mall, but was forced inside due to the bad weather. Even so, UCF President John Hitt, SGA President Chris Clemente, and other speakers came to speak out against the senseless crime committed by Omar Marteen.
“Tonight shows in the wake of this tragedy that knights are charging on, that we’re an open and inclusive community, even though we’ve been
devastated,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, the Government Affairs Manager for the LGBTQ-rights group Equality Florida.
The vigil was populated by many of UCF and members of Orlando's LGBTQ community wishing to stand together in solidarity. One such member was Kaitlan Mcgahey. “This has been a comfort, it's been hard to get things done the last few days," Mcgahey said. "Having a reason to get up and come out to be a part of something was a nice feeling."
Jaime Caldaro, a member of the LGBTQ community and a two-year student at UCF, felt the same. “Tonight’s been a night f0or me to let all my feelings out and to be with people who feel the same way," Caldaro said. "For people like me, who felt personally attacked by this, it’s helped me let go of some of the pain and angst I’ve felt."
She said friends that attended Pulse before the shooting remember seeing the shooter, Omar Marteen, at the club the Wednesday before the shooting.
"They saw a guy in a corner, leering, drinking my himself," Caldaro said. "They thought he didn’t seem right, and they were correct.”
Ultimately, many of the LGBTQ members viewed the vigil as an opportunity to come together and spread a message of love, rather than hate.
"This is going to make us stronger," Caldaro said. "People have lit candles from New York to Hong Kong, and the LGBTQ community has never had that kind of support before.