The 49 people slain and the 53 wounded in an Orlando gay night club Saturday were remembered in poetry, prayers, and songs Tuesday at Oberlin’s Universalist Fellowship church.
The Rev. Mary Grigolia recited the names of the dead, including shooter Omar Mateen, during a candle lighting ceremony. She condemned the killings and all violence at the start of the vigil attended by about a dozen people.
“An attack at a gay night club in June, the month of gay pride, strikes at the heart of all LGBTQ people and all whose hearts are open to the worth and dignity of all people, including all sexual minorities, ” Grigolia said. “We are shocked and saddened. We grasp for answers and to make sense of what happened. We want to know what it means to us and to those we love.”
Grigolia said young gay and transgender people who have not come out should not be intimidated by the atrocity and should celebrate their sexuality. “There is no safety in the closet and we need your true self and your gifts to help us all,” she said.
She also criticized some media for linking Islam to violence and said Muslims should be proud of their religion.
“Not all viewers buy those lies,” Grigolia said. “We know that your faith is a gift to our world.”
Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard for a G4S, an international security company, said in 911 calls that he carried out the killings in support of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, according to the FBI. He also claimed allegiance to the Boston Marathon bombers.
FBI Director James Comey said his agency investigated Mateen in 2013 due to threats he made to co-workers and his association with a man who went to Syria and joined the al Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-linked group. Comey said the case was closed because there was no proof Mateen was linked to terrorism.
At least four men who were regulars at Pulse, the club where the massacre occurred, said Mateen was seen there several times, according to the Orlando Sentinel. One said Mateen had been going there for years. Mateen’s ex-wife, who said he abused her, told the New York Times that he may have been gay and hiding his sexuality.
Mateen’s father said his son told him he was angered by seeing two men kissing and that may have triggered the killings.
But Grigolia encouraged men to continue kissing in public. “Your kisses for each other are a wonder for this world, where men are forbidden to be vulnerable and instead, offered guns,” she said.
Grigolia quoted the Rev. Meg Riley, pastor of the online Church of the Larger Fellowship, in urging the audience to continue to love and respect one another and not let the slaughter cause division.
“Let us refuse to allow any gunman to assassinate our own humanity,” she said. “Choose life and choose love over and over.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune The 49 people slain and 53 wounded in Saturday’s massacre in Orlando are remembered Tuesday in prayers and songs at the Oberlin Universalist Fellowship church.