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Jun 14, 2016 10:03 PM

Hundreds attend Portsmouth vigil to honor Orlando victims

PORTSMOUTH - Communities across the Granite State joined in a global movement Tuesday to honor the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Three vigils were held Tuesday night across the state. One was held in Portsmouth at the South Church, one in Dover at Henry Law Park, and another in Concord at Wesley Church.

Hundreds of people gathered in Portsmouth for a community reflection, followed by a candlelit walk around Market Square.

“I think it’s fair to say everyone in the country, particularly in faith communities and in the LGBTQ communities, is really reeling from what happened in Orlando and just trying to process,” said Rebecca Rutter-Sanborn, a member of the Board of Directors for Seacoast Outright.

The organization is volunteer-run and works with LGBTQ youth. Rutter-Sanborn said after the group heard about what happened in Orlando, holding some kind of event in remembrance of the victims in partnership with the South Church became a priority.

“[We organized this] to come together, process, grieve, reflect, and hopefully to strengthen each other in the hope that, ultimately, division and hatred is overcome by the power of community and love,” she added.

Rev. Lauren Smith is one of two pastors at the South Church. She said she grew up in the San Francisco Bay area during the height of the AIDS epidemic and has seen how hard-working activists can inspire change.

“I hope that we can inspire people to stand up for the rights of all of the folks in our community,” Smith said about organizing the vigil. “Established relationships allow us together to hold community more effectively, and that’s really lovely.”

Cities around the world are also showing their support for all those affected by the shooting, which is now being referred to as the worst mass shooting in the United States' history. Places like Sydney, New York City, Paris and Boston lit up buildings with rainbow colors, and other cities like London held vigils of their own.

In New Hampshire, residents are joining this world-wide effort to bring people together to heal. The atmosphere at the vigil in Portsmouth reflected this purpose.

“We support you, you’re supported, you’re loved, and none of that changes,” Rutter-Sanborn said. “We’re here for you, and we’re here to listen to your thoughts and feelings on how this affects you.”

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