As news of Sunday morning’s mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, continued to send shock waves across the nation, members of the University of Chicago and Hyde Park communities gathered at the Center for Identity and Inclusion (CII) on Monday afternoon to mourn the 49 lives lost and reflect on the tragedy.
Attendees introduced themselves and, in some cases, briefly described why they had congregated at 5710 South Woodlawn that afternoon. One attendee introduced himself as a gay man with ties to the Orlando queer community. A woman tearfully identified herself as a queer Muslim, while another, visibly shaken, said that she had a friend who had escaped Pulse during the shooting.
Representatives from campus-affiliated spiritual groups were also present. Tahir Abdullah, the assistant director of Spiritual Life and advisor for Muslim affairs, assured attendees that the Office of Spiritual Life’s doors will be open for students in the wake of the attacks. Reverend Stacy Alan, the chaplain and director of Brent House, the University’s Episcopal campus ministry, similarly offered support.
“There has been a lot of talk about the shooter being Muslim, but he was born and raised in this country, and it has been from self-professing Christians that the majority of homophobic rhetoric has come,” Alan said in her introduction. “I’m aware of that, and I’m here if you want someone to vent at.”
LGBTQ Student Life Office Director Tobias Spears, who moderated the event, said that he, too, had been personally affected by the shooting: he was acquainted with one of the victims, singer Shane Tomlinson, 33.
“Like all of you, I’m still trying to process this,” Spears said. “This affects all of us.”
CII staff and attendees reminded those present of details that may have been swept away in the media coverage of the event: that it was Latin Night at Pulse, and thus the victims were primarily queer people of color; that an attack on the Los Angeles Pride Parade was intercepted later the same day; that the violence occurred during the holy month of Ramadan and Gay Pride Month; that some of those wounded and killed may not have been “out” to their families before Sunday’s events; that the violence was both an act of terror and a hate crime; and that the two are not mutually exclusive.
Gun ownership and fear were recurring topics in the conversation that followed. Many nodded in agreement when Ronnie Rios, deputy director of the CII and assistant dean of students in the University, pointed out that it often takes an event of this magnitude for people to mobilize en masse, even though violence against racial and sexual minorities is an almost daily occurrence.
“Black and brown people are getting murdered every day, literally down the street from here,” she said. “The things driving that are the same: hatred and access to guns.”
Dan Ackerman (A.B. ’16) recounted a conversation he’d had with a Lyft driver—who was also gay—on the day of the shooting.
“After she dropped off the other passenger, she said, ‘I think I might get a gun.’ And to be honest, I told her I might, too,” he said.
Ackerman also recalled the fear he’d felt when he’d been jeered at while wearing a purse in East Hyde Park. “That was the first time I bought pepper spray,” he remembered.
Ackerman’s anecdotes cued a line of questioning regarding how acts of hate like the one in Orlando challenge—or, in Rev. Alan’s words, “desecrate”—the queer community’s safe spaces.
“What does it mean when we feel like we need to bring a gun to a nightclub? To Boystown?” Spears asked, referring to the North Side neighborhood long considered one of Chicago’s most gay-friendly areas.
One woman said that she felt at a loss Sunday evening for that reason.
“All I wanted to do was be in a place where I could be with other queer people, but the first place I thought to go was a gay bar,” she said.
Spears and Rios concluded by reading aloud the names of the identified victims of the shooting, followed by a moment of silence.
Since Monday afternoon, the 49 people who lost their lives have been identified. Their names are listed below:
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old