Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
These are the names of the 49 people who lost their lives on June 12, 2016. Six months ago. Kids as young as 18 had their lives taken in Orlando, at Pulse Nightclub.
Six months ago, we heard the news, and watched the body count rise. We heard about cell phones ringing in the pockets of those who passed on, and no one to answer.
That Sunday, I contacted friends at the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, local elected officials and community leaders, and said that we needed to plan a vigil. And then Monday, I walked into work, hugged one of my best friends, and we both looked at each other and said, “This could have been us.” We had both been out for a Friday night happy hour. Friends who attended Trillium Health’s annual fundraiser, The White Party, felt the same way. That Monday evening, 800-900 people attended a vigil outside of the Bachelor Forum. We rallied, and those of us who spoke, spoke about the need for common sense gun control, mental health help, protections for the LGBTQ community from the federal government, education and awareness, being visible, and moving from a place of fear to a place of action and movement. Our Mayor and City Council-members spoke about our city, and our inclusiveness, and reassured their support. The names of the victims were read.
For some reason, it wasn’t us. It was 1,223 miles away. People of color, members of the LGBTQ community, loved ones, people forever missed. Today, parents, families, friends partners, lovers, woke up missing the people they love.
Did you read all the names? Go back and read them if you didn’t or read them again. While local radio show hosts branded this as an attack on an American nightclub, we know it wasn’t just an attack on Americans. This event was an attack on people of color, on the LGBTQ community. My community.
We should never forget. We should never stop being visible. Or for rights and protection under the law. We should never cease our efforts for commonsense gun laws, and easier access to mental health assistance. We should never stop facing racism head-on, and educating the communities around us. Our voices while loud when pushing marriage equality forward, should and need to be louder as we head into a new presidential administration.
And we won’t stop. Why? Because when people unite for a good cause, a cause that affects people in a positive way, and shines light into darkness, they can’t be stopped.
Together, we rise.