Thousands gather at vigil in downtown Orlando
ORLANDO, Fla. – Vigils, rallies and marches are being held around the country Monday and later this week for the victims of the deadly attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Thousands of people gathered outside Orlando's performing arts center downtown Monday evening for a "OneOrlando Vigil" to support the victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Many in the crowd said they were inspired to attend because Pulse played a huge role in their lives as gays and lesbians.
"It was a place that a young 20-year-old who wasn't openly gay felt safe for the first time," said Cathleen Daus, now 36. She worked at Pulse when she was in her 20s. "Pulse gave me confidence, made me realize I was normal and so much like everyone else."
The vigil was held on the lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center, the area's main performing arts venue. It's also the location of a makeshift memorial, where folks have been leaving flowers, candles and notes for the victims.
"We want to bring everybody together," said Imam Muhammad Musri, president of American Islam. "We want something good to come out of it, something that honors the memories of those who were killed."
The Muslim leader said he understands people are angry, but he said people who truly follow Islam denounce acts of violence and hate.
"Islam is peace," he said. "Islam is life and love."
It started as a somber ceremony, as officials read the names of the 49 victims lost.
"It is hard, but we have to keep our faith and move forward," said Daniel Segi, who attended the vigil.
But the vigil grew into a showing of strength as thousands joined together to reject hate and embrace love.
"Orlando united!" the crowd chanted.
People said there's so much more love than hate in Orlando and while they can't change what happened, they're going to make sure Orlando comes back better than ever.
Copyright 2016 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.