Cities United in Grief Following Orlando Mass Shooting

Thousands gathered in Seattle's Cal Anderson Park on Sunday for a candlelight vigil.

Thousands gathered in Seattle's Cal Anderson Park on Sunday for a candlelight vigil. Michael Grass /

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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray: “We will stand together and we will be strong” in the face of the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

SEATTLE — Sunday’s early morning mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which killed at least 50 people and injured scores more, was the deadliest such attack in American history and the worst targeting the LGBT community. As horrific details emerged from the attack, municipal leaders from around the nation issued statements of sorrow and solidarity and quickly helped to organize vigils in places like Nashville, Tennessee, Austin, Texas, and here in Seattle, where thousands gathered at sunset in Cal Anderson Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, the hub of the city’s LGBT community.

There’s no set template for how local governments are supposed to react to a tragedy that happens in another city. Each city is different and each situation is different. But the deep pain and anguish that come from such horrific situations know no municipal boundaries.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that," Pete Buttegeig, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, tweeted on Sunday, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.

“In vivid instances of hate like the episode of terror early [Sunday] morning, we're reminded that we as a people cannot let violence define our city, our state, or our nation,” Tommy Battle, the mayor of Huntsville, Alabama, said in a statement.

In Seattle, the city’s openly gay mayor, Ed Murray, told the thousands of people gathered for Sunday’s candlelight vigil: “We will, as we have in the past, face this fear. We will not be intimidated.”

Murray continued: “We will stand together and we will be strong . . . we cannot give into despair.”

Here’s a sampling of official statements released by U.S. mayors on Sunday:

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski:

This morning my heart is heavy with grief. While we don’t yet know all the details of the tragedy unfolding in Orlando, it is an unspeakable act of violence-not only against one class of people, or one city, but against society as a whole.

As a mayor charged with keeping a city safe, I can’t help but feel we are failing to address a societal ill, one where a person can senselessly kill so many with nothing more than a motive and a gun--and that we fail to learn lessons from these repeated tragedies.

I am very grateful to the heroes of law enforcement who responded, put themselves in harm's way, and undoubtedly saved lives.

As an openly gay woman, I can’t help but view this tragedy as an attack on all people who identify as LGBTQ—a hate crime perpetrated to silence our community during the month of Pride, a time when we openly celebrate who we are and the joy of self acceptance.  

As a mother, I am simply heartbroken, devastated at the thought of the family and friends who have lost a loved one in this tragic event and for those who endured injury and the trauma caused by this one individual.

Today my prayers are with the victims of this attack, their loved ones, the City of Orlando, and the entire LGBTQ community. We must learn from this tragedy and resolve to take action to prevent this from happening again. Let us all respond today with peace and acts of kindness. We can make this world a better place to live and we will.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti:

"Our hearts go out to the victims and survivors in Orlando, an attack not just on our LGBT brothers and sisters, but on all of us. As we mourn the dead and tend to the injured and bereaved, we redouble our commitment to the essence of America--diversity and inclusion make our nation strong.

"Once again, a shocking act of violence forces us to reflect on the price of allowing easy access to fearsome weaponry. We must distinguish between the freedom to bear arms and the irresponsible policies that open the way, again and again, for our enemies to turn their hatred into explosions of deadly mass violence."

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray:

“Americans woke up this morning with the all-too-familiar feeling of incomprehension at another act of mass violence, and LGBTQ Americans awoke with the sickening, all-too-familiar feeling of fear that our community has once again been attacked.

“Words cannot adequately encompass the feelings of grief I am feeling for the loss of so many of our LGBTQ and allied brothers and sisters in Orlando during the largest single act of violence against LGBTQ people in United States history. For too long, our community has been the target of violence throughout the world. It will never make sense to me that love is met with such hate.

“On behalf of the people of the City of Seattle, my heart and my thoughts go out to those whose lives were forever changed by the events last night. Today our community draws closer to one another for comfort, support and healing, and to honor those who were tragically lost.”

Charleston, S.C., Mayor John Tecklenburg:

Early this morning, in an act of unimaginable savagery, the lives of at least fifty innocent men and women were cruelly snuffed out in a mass shooting at an Orlando, Florida nightclub.Regardless of the gunman's precise motive, which is still not known with certainty at this hour, this was clearly yet another unfathomable act of evil, of hate, perpetrated against good and decent people who loved their lives and did nothing wrong. Their loss, and the loss their friends and loved ones must now somehow endure, is simply incomprehensible—and heartbreaking.Earlier today, I spoke with our own police chief, Greg Mullen, who reports that he is in contact with state and federal officials, and that all appropriate actions are being taken here locally to secure our citizens against a similar tragedy. In addition, I have placed a call to Mayor Dyer in Orlando to offer whatever assistance we can to those now responding to this horrific event.One year ago this week, we here in Charleston were brought face to face with the same kind of evil that the people of Orlando are being forced to reckon with today, when nine beautiful souls were viciously stolen from us by a racist gunman in the basement of Mother Emanuel AME church.We will never forget the horror of that hot, sticky June night, or of the terrible days and weeks that followed. We will never understand the evil that drove a young man, born and raised here in our state, to carry out that unimaginable crime. And we will never stop giving thanks for the remarkable courage and grace of the Mother Emanuel families, who looked beyond their own pain to show us the way to hope and reconciliation—and in the process, did so much to help lift our city through those terrible times.The thoughts and prayers of all Charlestonians are with the people of Orlando today, as we grieve for the lost and for those they left behind. And as we remain determined to live out the full meaning of St. Paul's admonition that we "be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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