By Melanie Woods, June 20 2016 —
After an emotional candlelit vigil last week at Olympic Plaza, Calgary’s LGBTQ community and allies will gather again to mourn the recent mass shooting in Orlando.
We are Orlando – YYC Memorial is organized by the Calgary Outlink Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, Hillhurst United Church, Calgary Pride and the Trans Equality Society of Alberta. The event will take place Wednesday, June 22 at 6:00 p.m. in the Jack Singer Concert Hall lobby.
“The whole idea of the event is to help Calgarians grieve the loss of lives in the attack on the LGBTQ community,” Calgary Outlink executive director Kelly Ernst said.
Early in the morning on June 12, a gunman stormed Pulse nightclub in Orlando during Latin night. The shooter killed 49 people and injured 53 others before being gunned down by police. Most of the victims were LGBTQ. It was largest mass shooting in American history.
Ernst said We are Orlando will give Calgarians an opportunity to come together following the tragedy.
“I think it’s really important that we move on from our grief and anger and have some sort of direction as to how we move forward in a different way,” Ernst said.
The memorial will feature speakers, a choir and individual tributes to each victim of the shooting. Participating groups include The Coming Out Monologues, the Calgary Men’s Chorus and Third Street Theatre.
Ernst said the event is not based on any faith and is open to all who wish to attend. He said Calgary first responders will come out in large numbers.
“Not only were some of the first responders [in Orlando] injured in the attack, but they were deeply impacted by having to deal with the trauma of over 100 casualties in this act of terror,” he said.
The University of Calgary Queers on Campus club will also participate in the memorial. Co-chairs Kira Daly and Zac Wierzbicki said the Orlando shooting is a defining moment for young LGBTQ people.
“As young people, it’s become part of our history now,” Daly said. “This is something that occurred and something that’s going to be remembered now. It’s a reminder that we’re still part of that history, we’re still building it and each of us has a role to play going forward in what happens next.”
Wierzbicki said public gatherings like We are Orlando strengthen the general community.
“It’s really important — having these public spaces where everyone gathers and you can see that your feelings are acknowledged in a public sphere and there are other people feeling this thing,” Wierzbicki said.
Daly said communal memorials validate people’s grief.
“There are so many different people that are a part of this community and are there to support you,” Daly said. “And maybe you don’t know them and maybe you don’t know people in Orlando, but that’s ok to be affected and to come together for it anyway.”
Information on We are Orlando – YYC Memorial can be found here.