- Associated Press - Monday, June 13, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Dozens gathered Monday at a church near New Orleans’ French Quarter to pray for the families and victims of a deadly shooting that targeted a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Clergy from a variety of faiths - Episcopal, Catholic, Jewish, Sikh, Methodist and Muslim - read a passage of scripture or recited a prayer to help begin the healing from the effects of the weekend massacre.

Stephanie Oshrin, 26, of New Orleans, quietly sat in a pew before the program started.

“In a time like this, community is real important to me,” she said when asked why she decided to show up for the vigil. “I’m part of a community where there are not a lot of safe places and there’s a real sadness that comes when one of those places you think are safe is violated.”

Augusta Butler, 70, is a member of St. Anna’s Episcopal Church, where the vigil was held.

“My heart is broken,” she said. “It’s just unreal that human beings could think of such horrendous things to do, not only to gay people, but to all people.”

Jack Carrel, 56, of New Orleans, said he came to the vigil “to honor the lives of the people hurt and killed in Orlando.”

Carrel said before Hurricane Katrina he worked with the Hate Crimes Project in New Orleans and felt it was important to be “part of a group I feel close to.”

“I’ve been watching the news and I’ve saw the stories. So many people have so much hate. It’s just really important to be out here to express the sorrow and the anger and find a way to think a different way,” he said.

Sylvia Robinson, 77, of New Orleans, said coming to the vigil was not even a question for her.

“I could not, not be here,” she said.

Robinson said she used to volunteer in the gay community, working at a hospice for people living with HIV and AIDS. After Hurricane Katrina, she said she was overwhelmed by emotions and couldn’t return to that activity. But after the shooting, she said her “spirit was pulled to return.”

“I’ve reconnected with the people there again and I feel whole again,” she said.

Karen Reichard, 49, of New Orleans, who said she’s part of the LGBT community, attended with her 12-year-old daughter, Juliana.

“I want my daughter to be here to see people come together in prayer and know that there’s good in the world even in the face of hatred,” she said.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu and former Democratic state Rep. Austin Badon also attended the vigil, which included a candlelight ceremony during which the names of each person killed was called.


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