FIU Pride Center Hosted 49 Second Vigil In Honor of FIU Alumn and Victims at Orlando Pulse Shooting

Jordan Coll / News Director

49 seconds were dedicated to remembering the 49 victims who were killed at the mass shooting five years ago at the Pulse NightClub in Orlando. 

In the event of the shooting 49 were killed along with 53 who were wounded. The Pulse Vigil Committee along with the FIU Pride Center hosted the event bringing together a series of speakers who reflected on the event that transpired at Pulse.

Dr. Erica Friedman, associate director of the FIU Pride Center provided opening remarks at the Pulse vigil

“It’s easy to become numb to it,” said Dr.Erica Friedman, associate director of the Pride Center at FIU who opened up the event. “Numbness is a natural response, but we have to break the numbness. We have to go out to the nightclub and dance so that we can heal despite our fear.”

FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg spoke on how the mass shooting which took place during the club’s Latin Night, and many of those members killed were Latino and part of the LGBTQIA community, was nothing more than “incompatible with who we are at FIU.” 

Jerry Wright, an FIU alumn who graduated with a bachelor’s from the hospitality management program was among those who were killed at the nightclub.

In a video from both his parents, MJ and Fred Wright spoke on how their son’s memory lives on with them and those who were closest to him. “After five years, this still pains us, but for our son, the day he received his diploma at FIU was one of the happiest moments of his life,” said Fred Wright. “We have to come together and bring stronger gun policies so that events such as Pulse do not repeat themselves.”

Brandon Wolf, one the survivors of the Pulse NightClub shooting

Brandon Wolf, one of the survivors at the club shooting, felt Pulse was a safe space for him to be himself for the very first time, until that night when over 150 rounds were shot across the nightclub, killing his closest friend Christopher Leinonen, which he referred to as Drew.

“The most ordinary of nights for us became extraordinary,” said Wolf. He currently works as the Central  Florida Development Officer and Media Relations Manager for Equity Florida, an advocacy group providing civil rights and protections for the LGBTQIA community.

He spoke on the idea of creating safer spaces for the LGBTQIA community, “my challenge to you on this five year anniversary is to honor the victims during this time not just with tears and thoughts and prayers, but with action,” said Wolf.

FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg at graduation ceremony Pulse victim Jerry Wright

After making his closing remarks, Friedman showcased the documentary hosted by the pride center titled Disarm Hate, a film meant to create awareness about gun violence against the LGBTQIA community.

Ashley Preston, who is the executive producer of the documentary spoke on how growing up she felt the pressures as a black transgender woman translate into gun violence and drive-by shootings.

“When you think in matters of oppression and gun violence, the whole objective of it is to shatter you from the inside out,” said Preston. “The point of this film is to narrate the social injustices which exist in our current system today, and not enough is being done for members of the trans community.”

Dr.Kim Liu, a volunteer physician who cared for Pulse first responders remembered going out during the weekends to Pulse with her friends. “Pulse was very close to my house in Orlando. And it was a place, a safe place where I could be there with my friends and chosen family,” said Liu. “What happened that night should not have happened.”

At the time of the shooting, she was overseas when she received a call from her roommate saying that both her roommates were there that night, finding out the next day one of her roommates was shot at the club. “It was all just so terrible seeing the headlines the next day of the killings,” said Liu.

The vigil concluded with members who attended the event at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum with the turning on of battery power candle lights and a 49 seconds moment of silence.

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