Words of Loss and Love Fill Cal Anderson Park During Vigil for Orlando Victims

A night of tears, hugging strangers, and calls for unity in the face of tragedy.

GIFS by Sofia Lee

The most difficult moment during Seattle’s candlelight vigil for the victims of the early-Sunday mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando came as the crowd counted the lives out loud.

One, two, three, four … forty-seven, forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty lives lost. “We love you!” someone in the crowd shouted.

The thousands-strong crowd of people that gathered late yesterday at Cal Anderson park—a park named after Washington State’s first openly gay legislator—held candles and phone lights aloft as the numbers echoed across the lawn. It was the moment that many of those in attendance, previously in good spirits, broke down in tears—audible sobbing filling the air. A Muslim family at the front of the crowd embraced a woman in a rainbow windbreaker as she shook and cried.

The scene was visual confirmation of one of the most stirring speeches of the evening—delivered by community leader and organizer Sonja Basha. “I am Muslim. I am queer. And I exist,” Basha told the crowd while standing onstage next to the city’s first openly gay mayor Ed Murray and Governor Jay Inslee. “Lasting change and community accountability comes from compassionate, critical, and complex world views. As we mourn, we move forward. Every article that you read, every news clip that you see, and every conversation that you have, know that the LGBTQ community and the Muslim family are not seperate. We mourn together.”

Throughout the night, the theme that was delivered from the podium was one of unity and love, Gov. Inslee telling the crowd, “I can say unequivocally this: There are seven million Washington hearts in Orlando tonight,” before listing cities across the state that he said stand in solidarity. “In the days to come our family will have a discussion about this, our elected leaders will have a discussion about this, and the wisdom will come. I don’t have the answers, but I know this: It cannot be inaction in the face of intolerance, it cannot be passivity in the face of gun violence, it cannot be status quo in the face of this type of division.”

“The epidemic of guns must be treated,” Murray said more directly, to some of the loudest applauses of the night, “I urge you not to give in to the sense that nothing can be done.”

After the speeches and the count, impromptu cries of “I love you!” from the crowd proved contagious. The phrase rung out over and over as everyone turned to the strangers and friends around them for hugs.

“Remember!” a man shouted from across the park, “We are still alive! Let’s kiss!”

GIFs by Sofia Lee, words by Kelton Sears.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

Enumclaw Rehab center a hotbed for coronavirus

Ten clients and two employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

State legislators discussed COVID-19 impacts during a East King Chambers Coalition webinar on March 31 moderated by Kate Riley of The Seattle Times. Screenshot
State lawmakers discuss COVID-19 impacts with chambers

Four state lawmakers gathered for a webinar with the East King Chambers Coalition.

Fighting the coronavirus, 100 masks at a time

In the early 1930s, Dorothy Lucille used whatever she had on hand… Continue reading

How will COVID-19 impact wildfire response?

Answers and resources are short in short supply right now, but fire academies are still planned.

Gov. Jay Inslee is pictured March 28 at a field hospital set up at the CenturyLink Field Event Center to address non-COVID-19 medical needs. (Photo courtesy of Jay Inslee’s Twitter feed)
Gov. Inslee warns of stepped-up ‘stay home’ enforcement

“Thousands of calls” from residents concerned about businesses and people not following restrictions.

Property tax deadline extended to June

This only affects those who pay their property taxes themselves.

The 2020 census form will look very similar to this sample document. Image courtesy U.S. Census Bureau
Don’t forget to take the census

Due to the coronavirus, the deadline for responding to the census is Aug. 14, 2020.

Most Read