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Vigils held in Boston to honor Orlando victims

Hundreds gathered on Boston Common on Sunday evening in solidarity with the victims of the Orlando shooting.
Hundreds gathered on Boston Common on Sunday evening in solidarity with the victims of the Orlando shooting.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/Boston Globe

In the wake of the mass shootings at a gay nightclub in Orlando, about 150 people gathered Sunday evening for a vigil on the Boston Common, where many had celebrated Boston’s annual gay pride parade just the day before.

Standing on the Parkman Bandstand, Mason Dunn, 30, looked into the crowd and said they must stick together in the face of the tragic shooting, which left 50 dead and 53 injured.

“I think often times, especially around gay pride, we are so caught up in joy and pride that we forget the struggle that it took to get us here, and the struggle that we are still having,” Dunn said. “This event is by far one of the most concerning, grotesque examples of violence. But for so many in the LGBTQ community … this kind of violence is a reality everyday.”

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Leeanne McHugh, 30, said she had spent Saturday in the Common celebrating Boston’s gay pride month. On Sunday, she was back in the same spot, mourning at the vigil.

“We’re in the midst of pride [month], and this occurred,” she said. “It’s really devastating. Everyone that was [at the Orlando club] last night wanted to dance. It was pride. I don’t think anyone who was there last night had a clue that something like this would happen.”

Nathan Bixby, 25, of Somerville said he decided to plan the vigil, which began around 6 p.m., because he said it was the only way he could reconcile what he was feeling.

“I saw the headlines, and I read the first paragraph and I just couldn’t continue,” Bixby said. “I kept trying, and I just couldn’t stomach it ... this [vigil] felt like the right thing to do.”

Another vigil was held around 8 p.m. outside of Trinity Episcopal Church in Copley Square. After a few moments of silence, and a few deep breaths, church officials led the crowd in a “moment of not silence.”

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On the count of three, all 300-plus people were told to yell as loud as they could, releasing all of their pent-up anger, frustration, and grief from the day.

Ismail Saoudi, an 18-year-old who moved to Boston from Egypt just a month ago, was among those in the crowd. Saoudi said he has found a lot of acceptance for gay people in Boston, and the events in Orlando has not made him second guess his decision of coming to the U.S.

Saoudi said he is worried people will over-politicize the situation because the gunman pledged his support to ISIS.

“Things are normal here. I’m out in a skirt today and no one has stared at me once,” he said. “Honestly, I’m just worried people are going to misinterpret what’s going on … the only issue today is that some [expletive] got a gun and decided to shoot people.”

Twenty-three-year-old Xandra Minter, a member of the Queer Muslims of Boston, said she feels the Orlando shooting has affected her from two angles: her religion and her sexual orientation.

“Having somebody who subscribes to my religion attacking a group that I also belong to, is really hurtful,” she said. “Having two halves of me that I’ve really been trying to meld together in harmony split ... it’s heartbreaking”

Makeshift memorials have also been appearing around the city.

Club Café, a popular piano bar and dance club in Boston, has set up a memorial outside the bar where a steady stream of people have come by to leave flowers and offer their condolences.

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A small memorial was also set up next to Marsh Chapel at Boston University.

As night fell, city landmarks such as the Zakim Bridge and TD Garden were lit up in the rainbow flag’s colors.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that a vigil will be held Monday at 6 p.m. on City Hall Plaza.

“Remembering the joy of Pride yesterday. My thoughts are [with] #Orlando,” the mayor said in a tweet.


Aimee Ortiz of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Trisha Thadani can be reached at trisha.thadani@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TrishaThadani