Tuesday, June 13, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Members of the Las Vegas gay and lesbian communities shared hugs, tears and some isolated moments of joy on Monday as rainbow-colored flags wafted softly in the evening winds exactly a year after 49 people were shot dead at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
The somber candlelight vigil, hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, aimed to honor the victims of last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting by sparking action and encouraging members of the community to live without fear of expression.
“We live in a world where not everyone values lives the same,” said Rev. Jamie Lee Sprague Ballou of Mary Magdalene Friends United Church of Christ. “Let’s carry their lives with us as we continue to march on and be who we are.”
Sprague Ballou, who said Monday she is the first transgender pastor in the United States to be ordained into the United Church of Christ, also encouraged “boldness” from about 100 attendees during the nearly two-hour event to “pave the way for the next generation.”
“We need to set the path for our young ones,” she said. “Until all of us are free none of us are free.”
Presiders at Monday’s vigil read short profiles of each of the 49 victims in what experts described as the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, while pictures of their faces were posted on 8-by-11 inch sheets of paper on a makeshift wall at the outdoor event.
And, for some in attendance, last year’s shooting hit home on a personal level.
Local LGBT activist Leo Murrieta said murdered Orlando resident Eddie Jamoldroy Justice was a friend and that the two had gone out on three occasions when Murrieta lived in Florida before moving to Las Vegas earlier this decade.
Murrieta said Justice, 30, was an “energetic and happy” person who cared about those around him and wore a consistent smile on his face.
“A year later and I’m still crying,” Murrieta said. “My heart broke into 49 places a year ago.”
“We cannot let that kind of hatred dictate how we live our lives,” he added.
Andre Wade, executive director of the Center, said the goal of Monday’s vigil was to “ensure people don’t forget what happened.”
“This is the start of coming together,” he said. “We hope this goes across the board and we will continue to fight hate.”