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Jun 17, 2016 11:39 PM

Hundreds attend Manchester vigil for Orlando shooting victims

MANCHESTER - When 18-year-old Molly Hutchinson heard about Sunday’s shooting in Orlando, she wanted to do something with people in her community to honor the lives lost.

What she didn’t know was that she would organize one of the largest vigils in New Hampshire since the shooting.

An Amherst resident and student at Souhegan Valley High School, Hutchinson reached out to her friends and members of area high school Gay-Straight Alliance groups to attend a vigil for the victims. From the early stages of planning, their goal was clear.

“No matter who you are, your religion, your race, your sexual orientation, your gender,” Hutchinson said on Friday afternoon. “We’re all here to support each other.”

She said about 50 people had originally responded to Facebook invitations for the event. A few days later, the event had spread tenfold. Organizers had to move the event to Veteran’s Park in Manchester to accommodate the larger crowd.

Hundreds of people showed up for the vigil, which started just after sunset. Hutchinson said she was overwhelmed but thrilled by how well received the event was.

“I can’t believe there are so many people that want to take time out of their busy lives on a Friday night to just stand in a moment of silence to remember those that we’ve lost,” she said. “That’s amazing to me.”

Attendees held hands, sang songs and stood in solidarity against the hateful tragedy of Sunday morning. They also called for change across the country.

“The peace needs to come and it needs to start now,” said Timothy Kierstead of Manchester before the vigil began. “No more fighting amongst ourselves. We’re a human species. We need to stand together and survive. If not, we’re all going to end up with hate.”

While many of the people in attendance carried pride flags and were there to stand as part of the LGBT community, others were there to simply honor the human lives lots and grieve together.

“I want people to leave here tonight knowing we’re all the same, every one of us,” said Jess Smith. “We all bleed red, and we need each other, not just in a time of hurt or crisis.”

Instead of using candles, glow sticks were available to attendees to light up the evening sky for a small donation. Hutchinson said all proceeds from those sales would be donated to those affected by the shooting via We Are Orlando, an online resource for anyone looking to send help or honor the victims in their own way.

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