By Kiera Thornton
On Tuesday October 25th, Out in UL held a remembrance ceremony for the victims of the Pulse shooting which occurred earlier this year. This was Out in UL’s event for SoUL Week which was held to mark one of the deadliest incidents of violence against LGBTQ+ people in history, allowing people on campus to pay their respects to those who died and to stand in solidarity with UL’s queer community.
The tragedy this ceremony remembered took place in the early hours of June 12th when a lone gunman attacked Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 people were killed and dozens more was injured. Pulse is particularly popular among the Latinx queer people in Orlando and over half of the victims were of Puerto Rican descent, a fact that is too often erased from media coverage of this tragedy. The shooting sent shockwaves through the international LGBTQ+ community and the pain and despair in Orlando was most certainly felt worldwide, with people all around the globe expressing their sympathies on social media. Even months after Pulse was attacked, it feels fresh in the minds of queer people.
Out in UL’s Orlando Pulse Remembrance took place in UL’s Main Plaza at nightfall. Attendees gathered at 7pm and thanks to the help of ULFM committee members, the entire ceremony was aired live on campus radio. The ceremony was opened by Out in UL Co-President, Seán Lynch, who spoke a little bit about the importance of Out in UL holding such an event. “The LGBTQ+ community is brought together by a common set of experiences and ideas and thought and lives, and although something like the Orlando tragedy can have happened halfway across the world, it is something we either can all feel or can know someone else who has felt their pain.”
Following this, Lorcan O’Donnell, Out in UL’s Campaigns Officer, talked about his own unique experience having been in the United States when the Pulse shooting occurred. This powerful speech described the reaction to the shooting in the Castro LGBTQ+ neighbourhood of San Francisco and how queer people stood together after the tragedy. After this, the names of those who died at Pulse were read out and the lanterns that had been laid out in the Main Plaza were set alight; 49 lanterns for each of the 49 victims. This emotional moment was followed up by a speech from ULSU Welfare Officer Caolan O’Donnell, which expressed a message of togetherness in the midst of tragedy and praised UL’s queer community. “Our LGBTQ+ community in UL are among the most welcoming you could ever meet. They do not judge a person based on how they appear or who they love, but rather by the integrity of their character, […] time and time again we see these people as strong, vocal advocates for selflessness”. Seán Lynch concluded the ceremony with a final speech in which he thanked all those who came along and those who made the event possible. Most of the attendees remained for at least another half hour, reflecting on the tragedy and taking in the candlelit spectacle.
Without a shadow of a doubt one of the most emotional and empowering events held by Out in UL in recent years, the Orlando Pulse Remembrance ceremony achieved one of the society’s fundamental aims in bringing the LGBTQ+ community and the wider community together. People stood together – regardless of orientation, gender, race or religion – to remember those whose lives were lost in the Pulse shooting. Certainly, this event allowed everyone on campus to show their solidarity towards LGBTQ+ people at this university.