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Community vigil honors victims of mass shooting

Published June 14, 2016
Story and photos by Sarah Sabatke

hundreds of people sit in the ampitheater outside the Boone County Courthouse

Hundreds of students and community members fill the amphitheater outside of the Boone County Courthouse for a vigil to honor victims of a mass shooting at the Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Hundreds of community members gathered at a candlelight vigil in solidarity with Orlando Monday night, June 13, at the Boone County Courthouse Amphitheater in downtown Columbia. Sean Olmstead, coordinator of the MU LGBTQ Resource Center, helped to organize the event.

a hand cups a single white candle

MU senior Blake Splitter shields his candle from the wind as the names of victims are read aloud.

“We’re just trying to make spaces that individuals can feel supported, can feel loved, can feel like they belong and that’s what we hope to create here [at the vigil],” Olmstead said.

MU offices and student groups — including the LGBTQ Resource Center, Counseling Center, Triangle Coalition, Fluidity, Queer Trans People of Color and Missouri Students Association — collaborated with community organizations and churches to plan the event, which paid tribute to the victims of the tragedy in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday morning. A gunman entered the Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub, during its “Latin Night” and began firing, killing 49 and wounding dozens of others, according to officials.

a man holds a cardboard sign that says

Shane Johnson holds a cardboard sign during the candlelight vigil. The sign reads, "COMO says No! To Homophobia and Islamophobia." Johnson said he made the sign because he believes in inclusivity and coming together as a community.

Various speakers and students led the night, taking turns reading the names of the 49 victims.

“This isn’t just an LGBTQ issue, it’s also a people-of-color issue, and it’s a larger community issue,” said Christy Hutton, associate director for outreach and prevention at the MU Counseling Center.

“I’m excited tonight to see people who care about all of those intersecting identities coming out to support our own community here, but also to send the message to folks in Orlando that we care about what happened to them,” Hutton said.

Despite the shock felt in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando, Olmstead hopes students feel that they are supported and know that they are not alone.

“Take care of each other, love each other,” he said. “There’s so many spaces on campus that you can find that and I hope that every student is able to find that.”

Published by the Division of Student Affairs, 211 Jesse Hall, Columbia, MO 65211 | Phone: 573-882-6776 | Fax: 573-882-0158 | E-mail:

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Last updated: Aug. 7, 2017