Kalamazoo holds vigil to remember victims of tragic shooting in Orlando

Posted at 6:15 PM, Jun 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-13 22:55:54-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Mayor Bobby Hopewell took a few breaths before speaking into the microphone at Bronson Park. He shook his head. Then took a few more breaths.

“I’m tired,” Mayor Hopewell said at a vigil held for the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre. “I don’t want to make these speeches. I’m tired."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said that a gunman walked in a club and opened fire Sunday morning, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others. It’s considered the deadliest attack in modern U.S. history.

“I’m tired,” Mayor Hopewell said once again shaking his head, emphasizing that these vigils are becoming too commonplace in Kalamazoo. The city has held two in recent months. One in February after a rampage shooting that killed six people and injured two others. And another just last week after nine cyclists were hit during an evening ride on Westnedge Avenue, killing five of them. Hatred and ignorance, Hopewell said, is what the city has dealt with too long.

“Its difficult to wrap your brain around such an act of violence and how quickly that changes a community,” said Jay Maddock during an interview at his office at the Gay and Lesbian Resource Center. “To imagine all of these people who went out to what they considered a safe space to be authentically themselves. And to be met with such violence and hatred, I can’t even begin to imagine and comprehend.”

No one can. Maddock said the shootings in Orlando were devastating, especially considering the nation was celebrating gay pride during the annual festivities.

“It was quite a 1-80 turn for us here in Kalamazoo coming off a really successful Kalamazoo Pride,” said Maddock where thousands of people turned out for. “To wake up Sunday morning and hear such tragic news left me speechless.”

Like much of the country, the resource center began planning a vigil to honor the lives lost and injured during the mass shooting. He said because this is yet another case of large-scale gun violence, there’s been an outpouring of love from everyone, not just the gay community.

“On a grander scale this is yet another devastating violent event involving guns, involving innocent lives lost,” said Maddock. “I think that that’s an issue that hits home and rocks the foundation for all of us.”

Over 400 people stood together in solidarity in Bronson Park. Some wearing commemorative ribbons. Other, crying.

“What we’re seeing now is exactly what we expect from this community,” said Maddock. “That we’re supporting each other. We’re loving one another. And we’re trying to figure out how we move forward."