AUGUSTA — More than 125 people joined members of the clergy and elected officials at a park as a rainbow arched over Augusta for a candlelight vigil to honor those lost during Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando.

The vigil, led by leaders from the Capital Area Multifaith Association, was held at Market Square Park and included prayers from a number of religious groups.

The Rev. Carrie Johnsen, of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta, said the group made “a stunning mosaic of all that is right and good and a circle of hope and light.”

“Together we stand united in our diversity and with the belief that peace and harmony is possible,” Johnsen said. “We need not think alike to love alike, and we need not to believe alike to love alike.”

Andrew Holden, a Vero Beach, Florida, resident working this summer at the Theater at Monmouth, said he’s been to the Orlando nightclub where the shooting took place.

“Over spring break, we actually went to Pulse and had a blast there,” Holden said. “It took me about 12 hours to acknowledge that it happened at home, and it was really hard for me to realize that it happened in my home and to a group I identify with.”

Holden, who was wearing a rainbow shirt that read “I can’t even think straight,” said he couldn’t listen to the firsthand accounts from people at the club because it was too easy to put himself into that situation.

“It was a clear attack on the LGBT community, and there is a sense of solidarity within the group, and that kind of solidarity is what a place like Pulse is all about,” Holden said. “I hope it reopens, and if it does, I will be there.”

One after another, elected officials and clergy members lit candles to honor each of the 49 dead victims of the largest mass shooting in modern American history, as well as one candle for attacker. Several people in the crowd wiped away tears during an acoustic version of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Rabbi Erica Asch, of Tempe Beth-El in Augusta, said her heart broke for the Muslim community in Augusta when she heard a Muslim who had expressed allegiance to ISIS had carried out the Orlando attack.

“We know all too well that some will blame an entire religion for the actions of a fanatic,” Asch said. “We know that ISIS does not stand for Islam, and our hearts grieve for our Muslim brothers and sisters in Augusta who might face even more scrutiny or hatred because of the actions of one person.”

Khalid Zamat, an Iraqi immigrant and leader among the Muslim community in Augusta, and his family stood with the other religious leaders during the vigil, and his son spoke on his behalf about what they felt when they heard the news of the shooting.

“It’s hard to cope when you hear that someone of your faith keeps doing these things,” Zamat said in Arabic while his son interpreted his remarks. “We don’t know what to say.”

The shooting Sunday morning at the Pulse nightclub left 50 people dead, including the assailant, and wounded more than 50 others. Pastor Frank Morin, of St. Michael Catholic Parish in Augusta, spoke out against the lack of strict gun control, especially as it relates to assault rifles.

The vigil concluded with everyone in attendance singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” More than 100 people attended a vigil Monday night in Hallowell, and Cony High School is holding a vigil at 7 p.m. Thursday in Mill Park.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


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