ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The outpouring of support for the Orlando shooting victims brought itself to Asheville Monday.
583 Miles from Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Asheville’s LGBT community and its supporters gathered for a vigl at O.Henry’s – the longest running gay bar in North Carolina.
“You’re just sobbing because it’s people you know. It’s people in your community,” said owner Derick Boyd. “In the gay community, we’ve struggled so hard.” He says those struggles for acceptance often leads them to places like Pulse or O.Henry’s.
“There are still plenty of places in the country where that’s the only place they feel safe and unfortunately they weren’t safe saturday night,” said O.Henry’s regular Lee Tomerlin.
Candles and rainbow flags in hand, the crowd gathered at Monday’s vigil showed the effects of that shooting has no bounds.
“Then I started worrying about friends that I knew lived in Orlando that recently moved from Asheville,” said Tomerlin.
The grief in Orlando stretched miles away through a community that’s like a family.
“A lot of LGBT people have been abandoned by their familIes so within friendships they find families like relationships,” said Campaign for Southern Equality Executive Director Jasmine Beach-Ferrara.
Even as they mourn the largest mass shooting in modern American history, pride still flies high in the LGBT community.
“My biggest fear is that there’s somebody out there who wants to be the next biggest,” said Tomerlin. “We have to continue to celebrate and be who we are. We can’t live in fear.”
The proceeds from Monday’s vigil will be donated to Equality Florida to help people affected by the shooting.