Salisbury vigil: Humanity is about love, not hate

Published 12:44 am Sunday, June 19, 2016

Editor’s note: These are comments delivered at a vigil held Wednesday in Salisbury in memory of the victims of the Orlando mass shooting.

By Robin Tanner

Like many of you, I heard the news early Sunday and felt the shock waves as I let the number of 20 victims sink into my soul.  Then, we heard during our Sunday service that it was 49.

I got home Sunday evening. My children, twin toddlers, were playing with a new toy, an ambulance, making the siren go off again and again, totally unaware. After they went to bed, my wife and I began watching the news.

I read the messages from the 30-year-old accountant, Eddie Justice, to his mother. Eddie was in one of the bathrooms at Pulse Club, crouching down when he texted his mother:

Mommy I love you

In club they shooting

Trapp in bathroom

Call police

Im gonna die

His mother, Mina, responded and called 911. She kept texting her son. His last words to her, “I’m going to die.” Eddie was a son, a terrified son, reaching out for his mother.

I do not know the 49 people that were killed.  I’ve read their names.  I do not know them, but I know they are family.

I know that in LGBTQ communities, bars and clubs are our sanctuaries when religious communities have not always been such a place. I know that my Muslim brothers and sisters are horrified and heart-sick. I know that my Latino/Latina brothers and sisters are hurting and heart-sick.  I know that my LGBTQ brothers and sisters are hurting and heart-sick.  And I know that so many of us are wondering what will it take to end this senseless violence?

Monday night, at the vigil at the Bar at 316 in Charlotte, a Muslim family arrived. The mother held a child about the age of 4 while the father held an infant. Several people looked back in the crowd watching the woman who wore a hijab. I thought, “I wonder what it takes to show up here with your young children at a LGBTQ bar after the Orlando murders?” Several people in the crowd parted and motioned for the family to step into the gathering rather than be held at the edges. Everyone went back to standing together. The Muslim family was now a part of the thousand gathered. I thought, “what must it take to welcome that family into this crowd?”

Being human.

That’s what it takes.

Let’s remember that — to be human with one another —  to be compassionate, to stand with and speak up when we hear words of hate, homophobic actions and violence in any form.  Our only “natural” inclination as humans is love.  Hate is something we learn. Violence is something we are taught. Let’s be human with one another once more.

As we close our vigil, we know that likely the last sound many of the victims heard was a gunshot. We will ring the bell 49 times, offering a sound of peace in place of the sound of violence they heard as they rest, we pray at last, in peace, held by a love greater than human mind could even comprehend.


Robin Tanner is the pastor of the Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church.