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'Standing Strong And United,' Boston Pride Celebration Pauses To Remember Orlando Victims02:48
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Thousands observe a moment of silence for the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. (Bruce Gellerman/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Thousands observe a moment of silence for the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. (Bruce Gellerman/WBUR)

On Sunday, hours after the mass shooting at a Orlando gay nightclub, members of Boston's LGBT community reflected on the tragedy at annual Pride block parties.

Security was tighter than in years past, and the 16th annual Boston Pride block party in the city's Back Bay neighborhood started slowly. But by late afternoon, it was in full swing.

'We Are Not Afraid'

Morgan Rowan, like many of those attending, had more questions than answers about the massacre in Florida that is now the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history.

"It's absolutely horrific," he said. "I mean why would anybody be targeted for celebrating love and peace and being together?"

Sylvain Bruni, president of Boston Pride, which organized the day's events, estimated 6,000 people attended the Back Bay block party.

At 4 p.m., the group held a moment of silence for the victims and their families at Back Bay and Jamaica Plain events. During that moment, the crowd stood still, quiet and reflective. And then, the celebration continued. It was an affirmation of community pride and courage, Bruni said.

"It's absolutely amazing to see that many people deciding to show up today despite the tragedy and to celebrate people," Bruni said. "I think the crowd responded very emotionally when we had our moment of silence to express, yes, we're going to be standing strong and united, and we're going to continue living our lives and show we are not afraid."

The Back Bay party featured Jalil Zougagh, who is known by his disc jockey name, DJ Jalil Z. He talked about how close-knit and caring the gay community is, particularly when tragedy strikes.

"The LGBTQ community is a family, you know," he said. "When something like this happens, everybody comes together."

Zougagh was born in Morocco and now lives in Miami. He was raised Muslim and is gay.

"I've never felt any prejudice against me, because I'm gay, my family accepted me for who I am," he said. "It's horrible to see and feel there are people like this in the world."

"The LGBTQ community is a family, you know. When something like this happens, everybody comes together."

DJ Jalil Z

Zougagh played in Orlando last week, but not at the Pulse Orlando, the club where the shooting took place early Sunday.

At the Back Bay block party, the DJ decided to change his first set of songs at the last minute. He kept the music upbeat — but he also played gay anthems that reflected the community's pride.

At 6 p.m. on Monday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will lead a vigil at City Hall Plaza to remember the Orlando victims and their families.

This segment aired on June 13, 2016.

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Bruce Gellerman is an award-winning journalist and senior correspondent, frequently covering science, business, technology and the environment.

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