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Local Vigils Lend Support To Victims Of Orlando Nightclub Shooting

People gather at Tallahassee's Lake Ella in the wake of a mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub. The shooting has been called an act of domestic terrorism

The shooting of an Orlando nightclub is being described as the worst mass shooting in U.S. History, and it's being investigated as an act of terrorism. As Law enforcement searches for answers, local LGBT organizations are hosting vigils to show support for the victims.

People greet and hug each other Sunday evening at Tallahassee’s Lake Ella. A large mat has been spread on the grass—a place for reflection and meditation. Next to it, a rainbow colored flag, lined with candles stands as a memorial.

“We went into disbelief and shock, and then, it set in that it was real, and they announced it was 50 not 20, we both broke down," said Ayana Powell. She was with her wife early Sunday morning in St. George Island when the couple got a call from Powell's wife's step-mother, alerting them to the news.

Tallahassee's LGBT groups host a vigil for victims of the mass shooting an an Orlando gay nightclub.
Credit LHatter / WFSU News
Tallahassee's LGBT groups host a vigil for victims of the mass shooting an an Orlando gay nightclub.

There had been a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Fifty people were dead, scores others were injured in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

“There many be some families that may not know their children were there. It’s just a lot to consider that took place, and right now, we’re trying to instill some positivity in people and embrace them so it doesn't go back to letting evilness win, and wanting us to be afraid to go our and live our lives," Powell said.

“This was an act of terror, and an act of hate. And as Americans we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people," said President Barack Obama during an address to the nation.

"As soon as I heard gunshots, I went straight to the floor and started looking for exits."

The gunman, identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, was killed by police during a shootout. He called 911 to declare an allegiance to ISIS and the organization has claimed responsibility. But the FBI says it’s not known whether the gunman collaborated with the terrorist group on the attack. What is known, is that the shooter had been twice investigated by the FBI—but nothing came of it and he was legally able to purchase guns used in the attack a week ago.  

Joseph Moralis was at Pulse nightclub when the shooting began. “As soon as I heard the gunshots I went straight to the floor and started looking for exits," he told NPR member station WMFE in Orlando.

He told WMFE's Catherine Welch Sunday afternoon that he was still looking for one missing friend.

“I’ve texted him  and I’ve called him, and haven’t heard from him," Moralis said. " But just one [friend]. Everyone else I was with, my party, everyone else is safe.”

Authorities had initially said about 20 people died in the attack, But that number rose after they entered the building and found more victims.  It has not been confirmed that Pulse was targeted because it is a gay club.

A second vigil is planned for Monday evening at the Capitol.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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