Triangle Park in downtown Lexington was filled Sunday night with people honoring the victims of the shooting in a popular gay nightclub in Orlando that killed at least 50 and injured 53.
Hundreds of supporters sang and held up candles as community leaders talked about the effect the attack has had on the nation.
“June 12, 2016, will be etched sadly and forever in the history of our LGBT community, indeed in our nation’s history,” Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said. “Many of us will remember exactly where we were when we got this news today.”
Chuck Mallory, president of the Kentucky Bourbon Bears, said he was impressed with the crowd that turned out for the vigil with only a day of planning.
“I think a lot of people realize this is bad for our country and it’s time to do something about our violence,” Mallory said.
In light of the attack, Lexington police Chief Mark Barnard told the crowd at the vigil that the department was starting to plan how they would keep everyone safe at the upcoming Lexington Pride Festival.
“We will be meeting this week with the organizers and we will be going over our safety plan for that event,” Barnard said. “I want to encourage everyone that wants to attend the festival to do that knowing we will be out in numbers to ensure your safety.”
Officers walked the perimeter of Triangle Park during the vigil Sunday night, which was a relief to some in attendance.
“I think we’re all afraid,” Mallory said. “This day and age, you never know what’s going to happen, so we can’t just hide and hope nothing happens to us. We need to stand up and let people know we’re here and need to be treated fairly and equally.”
Stephanie Lancaster grew up in Orlando and lived minutes from Pulse, the club where the shooting happened. She used to go there frequently, and so did her friends. She said most of her friends were elsewhere when the attack happened. As of Sunday night, she did not yet recognize any of the names that had been released on the list of victims.
“You see acts of terrorism on the TV and you change your Facebook profile picture and that’s it,” Lancaster said. “Terrorism doesn’t happen in your hometown, and for this, that’s my home. I know that place, I know the people who work there, I know the people who live there, I know the people who frequent that club.”
Lancaster said it was both scary and comforting to see places, streets and people she recognized shown on national coverage of the shooting.
“It means a lot that all over the country and all over the world people are supporting my friends, and my family and my community,” Lancaster said. “It’s not just Orlando being there for the people they lost, it’s the entire world being there.”