Scenes of Grief and Healing in South Florida After Orlando Attack

Jun 13, 2016

In the hours and days following the Sunday massacre at a gay club in Orlando, members of South Florida's LGBT community have gathered to mourn and to provide comfort to each other.

WLRN reporters visited four of those spaces - a vigil in Wilton Manors, a drag show in Miami Beach, Bingo Night at a Port Saint Lucie gay bar, and a Miami-Dade LGBT center for youth. You can listen to the songs and silence in those spaces, above.

Vigil at the Wilton Manors Pride Center

Carl Hildebrand and Robin Merrill. Hildebrand was in Orlando this weekend and drove back to South Florida Sunday afternoon.
Credit Spencer Parts

Wilton Manors has one of the highest percentages of LGBT residents in the country. People from the town and around South Florida gathered at the city's Pride Center for a vigil Sunday evening.

There was a moment of silence, led by a Jewish rabbi, and the gay men's chorus of South Florida opened the vigil with "Seasons of Love" from the musical rent.

Carl Hildebrand drove back to South Florida from Orlando Sunday afternoon.

"For three and a half hours I was grateful for my life," Hildebrand said. "I was like, I have to hold a a candle, hold a sign."

The Palace Bar on Ocean Drive

Fantasia performs at the Palace Bar in Miami Beach.
Credit Wilson Sayre

Tiffany Fantasia is a drag queen who has performed at the Palace Bar in Miami Beach for the last thirteen years. 

"You can't be terrorized because there's terrorism," Fantasia said. "If I sit there and close my doors and live inside my home for fear that someone's going to attack me for being who I am, I'll never live."

Fantasia often performs outside on the sidewalk, in view of passersby.

"It could have been us," she said.

"I'm not going to sit here and downgrade my life because of somebody else's ignorance."

TattleTails Night Club, Port St. Lucie

My partner died a year ago. We had the memorial here. Friends have had weddings here. This really is a community center for us. Yes, it's a bar. And yes we all like to drink. But for the most part this is our community center. 

TattleTails is on U.S. 1 just miles from shooter Omar Mateen's home, is the only gay bar in town. And for miles around.

Dan Mundis came to Bingo Night on Sunday, even though  he prefers Tuesday darts.

"My partner died a year ago. We had the memorial here," he said. "Friends have had weddings here. This really is a community center for us. Yes, it's a bar. And yes we all like to drink. But for the most part this is our community center."

He said he needed the community the bar provides that Sunday night, and that showing up to the normal stuff is a way to beat the fear that acts of violence can inspire.

The bar held its own vigil that night, in the strip mall parking lot outside.

PrideLines Community Center

Alina Tello-Cordon is a clinical social worker. She was at Pridelines, a Miami LGBTQ community center to provide therapy support for youth seeking to understand the Orlando massacre.
Credit Nadege Green

Alina Tello-Cordon is a clinical social worker who was volunteering at Pridelines, an LGBT community center in Miami.

She was there Monday to help young people wade through their feelings in the aftermath of the shooting. Some of her most useful tools: a large stuffed dolphin, and lots of stickers.

They say things like "Trans people under attack - we've got your back" and "I love my LGBTQ family."

"I can only imagine how the young people in our community feel. Maybe very lost, very hopeless."

Victor Rafael Lopez, 17, came to the cetner Monday to support other queer youth. He also came because the center's a safe space for him.

"Here you can sit and just be yourself," he said.

Listen to more of South Florida's response to the shooting on WLRN's Soundcloud page.