In the first of two vigils in the Quad-Cities this week for the victims of the Orlando night club shooting, more than 100 people sang, prayed and encouraged each other to persevere Tuesday night.
The Rev. Jay Wolin, of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad-Cities, which hosted the gathering, said it was intended to provide a place for people to lament, mourn and grieve — but also "hopefully to heal together."
The shooting over the weekend at a gay-themed night club in Orlando claimed 49 lives and wounded more than 50 others, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Amid the sorrow over the lost lives and the violence, there was a strain of purposefulness in the remarks of more than a dozen people — many of them from the Quad-City LGBT community — who spoke Tuesday. Each came to the microphone, one by one, to express a range of emotions. Many encouraged the others not to shrink from who they are.
"I refuse to dim my shine for someone else, and I encourage all of you to do the same," Josh Ludeking, of Rock Island, said.
A couple of speakers talked about legislation that would restrict the use of bathrooms and urged people to resist. Another person spoke of registering to vote. But for the most part, the event was free of the politics that has been unleashed on social media and traditional media in the aftermath of the shooting.
A couple of speakers expressed disappointment at the news media for showing so many photographs of Omar Mateen, the shooter who was killed by police, rather than the victims.
Imam H. Saad Baig, director of the Islamic Center of the Quad-Cities, called the shooting a "barbaric act" that could not be committed "by a true Muslim or a true American."
A line of people lit candles for the victims. At one point, early in the vigil, a woman read these words from a prayer book: "Never does hatred cease by hating in return." The crowd responded: "Only through love can hatred come to an end."
Afterward, Ludeking said that he showed up Tuesday because he felt overwhelmed and isolated and was looking for a vigil. "I found it helpful. More so than I expected," he said.
One of the most poignant moments came when Jane VanVooren Rogers, the congregational administrator at the Davenport church, softly read the names and ages of the people who were killed at the Pulse nightclub.
Before a silent congregation, each name was accompanied by a photograph. Each left an impression. After the last of the names was read, Rogers said: "May God bless them and may they be at peace."