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City Hall Plaza was packed Monday night for a vigil to pay tribute to victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando — an attack that left 49 people dead and dozens wounded.
People from all over Boston came out to remember the victims and unite as a community. They carried signs, rainbow flags and for many, heavy hearts. But, at least for a little while, some of those hearts were lifted through solidarity and song.
Alexandra Sheldon of Cambridge got the crowd started, singing "Amazing Grace."
"We wanted to sing," Sheldon said. "It felt like singing was something important to do."
And she wanted to honor the victims of the Orlando attack, Sheldon added.
"I just felt it in my bones that I wanted to be here and be with other people and to show solidarity with the gay community," Sheldon said. "My heart’s broken, and I can’t really bear what happened."
That sentiment was common among the crowd Monday night. Liliana Garcia, 30, of Lawrence, attended the vigil with her daughter, Deliahla. Garcia said she's fed up with the violence, and it's time for policy changes.
"I thought that we moved forward, but we haven't — we actually took 50 steps back," Garcia said. "I just hope that our politicians pay attention, that people are looking for change, people are looking for gun control and they’re looking to feel safe, which we don’t. We don’t feel safe. I’m scared for my daughter, who's 12, I’m scared of her going to school, I’m scared for myself to go out with my wife. I'm scared for a lot of people."
Several people who attended the vigil called for gun control and better mental health care — calls often heard after mass shootings. For Tiffany Favers of East Boston, the conversation around the Orlando attack needs to be wide-ranging and meaningful.
"We need to talk about homophobia and trans-phobia and what it does to our community," Favers said. "We have to talk about gun control and the fact, why are people even allowed to buy assault rifles. We have to talk about the Islamophobia that's sparking up because that's an easy pigeon hole to put this tragedy on."
Others gathered Monday said they also want to see more tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT community.
"The attacks were on a place where people just went to be themselves and feel like they could do what they want to do and love who they want to love," said 22-year-old Aner Martino of Brighton. "I just hope that we don’t have to hide … anymore and just kind of be open and free."
That spirit of openness was on display just this past weekend as Boston celebrated Pride Week. It was a little over a week ago, when the pride flag was raised on Boston City Hall Plaza to celebrate the occasion. Now the flag is at half-staff. And it was just steps away from the billowing rainbow flag where people gathered to mourn. Walsh, who led the vigil, said it was sad to go from a major celebration to a tragedy — something Boston has also dealt with in the past.
"Three short years ago, the people of Orlando stood with us here in Boston when we had our own tragedy during the marathon," Walsh told the large crowd. "It’s important for the people of Orlando to understand that we stand in solidarity with them, and we will help them in anyway that we can."
The crowd at City Hall signed condolence books that will be sent to Orlando later this week. As people lined up to leave their messages, they hugged, they cried and throughout the evening, they sang.
Here are more photos from the vigil:
This segment aired on June 14, 2016.
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