By Ashley Lodato
A small but dedicated crowd gathered for a candlelight vigil at Mack Lloyd Park in Winthrop on Sunday evening, in the wake of Sunday morning’s mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Although the vigil was lightly attended compared to those taking place in urban areas all over the country, it shared a purpose with those other gatherings: to allow what unites us prove to be a greater force than what divides us.
Organized by valley part-time resident Genessa Krasnow, the Methow Valley’s “Vigil for the Victims of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting” was a way to show solidarity to fellow Americans affected by the massacre in general, and to LGBT brothers and sisters in particular. “When terror and hate strike,” says Genessa, “nothing is more affirming than gathering in community, in solidarity, and in love.”
Genessa also acknowledged that although the Winthrop vigil was held in honor of the LGBT community, “we know nobody is immune from the violence — not school children, not church goers, not those in the movies.” The list is too long, says Genessa. “Enough already.”
Vigil participants shared different reasons for attending the event. For some, the motivation was intensely personal. Several attendees commented that they had spent time in nightclubs such as the one in Orlando. Others talked about the challenges faced by members of the LGBT community during the struggle to achieve the basic human rights afforded all Americans. Most expressed bewilderment about the legislation that makes is not only permissible, but also fairly easy, for a regular citizen to come into possession of an assault rifle whose main purpose is killing lots of people quickly.
There were a couple of kids at the vigil, too, and I wondered what messages they will absorb from the Orlando massacre and other mass shootings. Will they learn that if you don’t approve of someone’s way of life you just get rid of them? Or will they see that tolerance and understanding are the only approaches that make sense in what seems to be the increasingly senseless world they will occupy as adults?
As the sun set on the park, marking the end of what was in all other ways a perfect summer evening, vigil participants joined each other in singing “Amazing Grace,” had a moment of silence and, finally, blew out their candles and departed for their homes to enjoy what everyone in the Orlando nightclub had been looking forward to — a night among people they love.