Crowds gather in Norfolk to honor victims, reflect on Orlando tragedy

Posted at 10:41 PM, Jun 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-13 22:43:25-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Several events were held in Norfolk on Monday night to remember the victims of the Orlando shooting and reflect on the horrific hate crime.

Old Dominion University held a vigil on campus outside of the Webb University Center.

Before gathering with candles, staff and students stood up to speak about the tragedy and how the community can come together.

Joe Ritchie, director of First Year Academic Enhancement, says he called Orlando home for 12 years and spent many nights at Pulse nightclub. He spoke about how important it is to have allies like they do at ODU.

"There are pockets out there of hatred of people who just hate me for being gay."

Just down the road from the vigil, the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads hosted a community conversation and rally in light of the tragedy so the community could come together and ask important questions.

Speakers stepped up to talk about starting a conversation with local legislators and registering to vote.

However, a major topic of discussion, is to not just sit back.

"We have got to be visible, a lot of people say the ignorant things that we talk about, which is because they don't know we exist."

Frank Kirschner, a child psychiatrist and one of the main speakers at Monday's event, also emphasized that it is important to not let the tragedy win.

He encourages everyone to come out to PrideFest this weekend in downtown Norfolk.

"Be cautious, be vigilant, but go and express our commitments and community and to celebrate," he says. "This is going to be a wonderful time."

Hampton Roads Pride’s President, Michael Berlucchi, released a statement on Monday about the security for PrideFest this weekend in the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando:

"The tragic events at Pulse nightclub in Orlando remind us that our community's efforts to advance justice and equality are as important now as they ever have been.  Hampton Roads Pride is committed to successfully executing PrideFest 2016, even in the face of hate and terror.

Our plans for the Fifth Annual Pride Block Party and PrideFest 2016  go forward.  Our community will demonstrate its solidarity with the LGBT community and its commitment to the values we cherish by celebrating together on June 17th & 18th.

There has always been a robust, comprehensive security strategy for our PrideFest events.  As a result of the heartbreaking events in Orlando, Hampton Roads Pride is working closely with the Norfolk Police Department as well as state and federal agencies to support the safety of our events."