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In remembrance: Candlelight vigil set for Saturday in Fort Myers

By Staff | Jun 15, 2016

A candlelight vigil is scheduled for Saturday in Fort Myers in remembrance of the victims and survivors from this past weekend’s mass shooting in Orlando.

Organized by Pride SWFL and Be Proud SWFL, the vigil will take place at 7 p.m. by the Uncommon Friends Fountain in Centennial Park. The event is open to the public and all are welcome to attend.

“It’s in homage to what happened,” Arlene Goldberg, a director with Pride SWFL, said.

“Our community is pulling together,” she added.

About 2 a.m. Sunday, Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, entered the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando with a semiautomatic pistol and an assault rifle. Mateen killed at least 49 people and injured more than 50, the Associated Press reported. It is being called the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

“It could have happened anywhere,” Goldberg said.

She called the tragedy a “direct hit on the LGBT community.”

“The world today is so ugly and split. We want to honor the victims,” Goldberg said.

“We’re all family,” she added. “We are all one.”

Some of Saturday’s speakers will include Pride SWFL President Mel Crawford, Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki and the Rev. Allison Farnum, of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers.

“There’ll be a reading of the names of the victims,” Goldberg said.

Music will be provided by musician Kelly Neff, who has performed locally, as well as on the national level. There is also a possibility that the SouthWest Florida Gay and Lesbian Chorus will take part.

“The Big Red Bus will be there to do a blood drive,” she said.

Goldberg confirmed that the donations will go toward those in Orlando.

Organizers will also collect monetary donations for the official GoFundMe account to benefit the shooting victims. As of Tuesday afternoon, over $3.5 million had been donated into the fund.

“Whatever we collect will go there,” Goldberg said.

People can also donate online at: www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund.

As of Tuesday, organizers were expecting a high turnout for Saturday.

“We’re looking at approximately 1,000 people right now,” she said.

“There probably will be more than that,” Goldberg added.

As for Southwest Florida’s LGBT community, it is shaken by what happened.

“They are totally devastated and they’re angry,” she said, noting that the local LGBT community focuses on love. “For us, it’s all about love.”

Goldberg offered a message to Orlando’s LGBT community.

“We have their backs and we’re with them,” she said.

“It’s time for us to pull together and move forward,” Goldberg added.

Other local events have been scheduled on behalf of the mass shooting in Orlando.

Fort Myers Memorial Gardens will open its funeral home on Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 1589 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, with a prayer service set for 6 p.m. A memorial book on hand will be sent to the city of Orlando. For more information, call 239-344-7110 or visit: www.fortmyersmemorial.com.

Also, St. John XXIII Catholic Church will hold a special Mass and prayer service on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers. For information, contact the church at 239-561-2245.

For additional information on Saturday’s candlelight vigil, contact Arlene Goldberg at 239-898-6124 or visit the event’s Facebook page online at: www.facebook.com/events/1750669511843566.

Centennial Park is at 2000 W. First St. in Fort Myers.