PFLAG Charleston holds vigil for Orlando victims

Sam Fishel, Staff Reporter


The Charleston chapter of PFLAG held a vigil at the Coles County Courthouse Thursday evening to honor and memorialize the 49 victims of the June 12 mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

An estimated 150 people gathered in front of the Courthouse at 7:00 P.M. to reflect on this week’s tragedy in Orlando. Many wore silver ribbons and carried rainbow flags in solidarity with LGBT+ community.

Various speakers presented their feelings on the tragedy, ranging from fear to disbelief.

PFLAG member Rachel Heicher lamented that people are often “scared of what we don’t know and don’t understand.” She added impassionately that such fear should not inhibit kindness and caring.

Heicher was followed by PFLAG member Missa Borah, who read a poem titled “The Dash” about the brevity of life and the importance of valuing love above material possessions and negative emotions.

Senior political science major Austin Mejdrich reflected Heicher’s and Borah’s sentiments, adding, “love is not only an adjective, but also a verb.” He believes that people should never be ashamed of who they are or who they love, noting that the shooting victims were targeted for these reasons.

At the high point of the vigil, candles were lit in memory of those who were injured or lost their life. A group reading of the 49 victims names followed, somberly led by Eastern alum  Mario McCart.

The program concluded with a group affirmation led by Rev. Paige Roberts of the EIU Wesley Foundation. She reminded the crowd that even in these difficult times, each person must not live with anger for others, but as “the light of love in darkness.”

PFLAG is a national organization of LGBT+ people and their allies whose goal is to provide advocacy, education, and support to LGBT+ people and their families.

PFLAG leader Donna Turner-Hudson said that the Charleston chapter has reacted to the Orlando tragedy with a drive for more visibility in the community.

“Our aim is to make it safe for people to be themselves in this town regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, or their status as an ally” she added.

The Charleston chapter hopes to make a “rainbow splash” in July by marching in the Red, White, and Blue Days parade. Turner-Hudson believes that they will be the first LGBT+ group to take part in the Charleston tradition.

The chapter will also celebrate their first anniversary in August.

Turner-Hudson concluded, “I am so thankful for the support of the community, for the people who came out [to the event], the people who stood up, and the people who believe that love is stronger than hate.”

To learn more about PFLAG Charleston and their efforts, visit their website at or email them at [email protected]


Sam Fishel can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]