Joanne Borden, 91, took the podium before a crowd of about a thousand Monday evening in Bay Shore and spoke a few simple truths as she sees them.
First, she noted, she has four grandchildren, all of whom call her Papa Joanne.
Then, she said, “Hateful words always culminate in violence.”
And, “God made us this way, so he must have intended for us to be this way.”
Her words were greeted enthusiastically by those gathered outside The LGBT Network center on Park Avenue, which played host to a candlelight vigil in memory and honor of the 49 people dead and 53 wounded in what is being reported by The New York Times as the worst mass shooting in American history.
The massacre happened early Sunday at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where the shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, was ultimately killed by police who were able to then free dozens of hostages that were still inside the Pulse nightclub.
Of those in attendance in Bay Shore, some were couples that held each other and wept for those who were lost. Many others arrived with their kids to take part in the candle lightings. Some brought their own candles; others picked from among those that were donated.
The vigil had a family gathering sort of feel to it, with many in attendance saying The Center has been a place to call home for many in the island’s LGBT communities.
“Our Long Island family stands with you, in solidarity with you,” LGBT Network CEO David Kilminick said of the victims in Orlando and their families. “This is a painful reminder of what plagues our society. While we celebrate pride this month, fight hate in this country with love.”
One young attendee who gave her name only as as Xander Simon, 17, said all it takes is one person to make a difference in the world.
“You may not have money to donate, but you have a choice to love,” she said. “You have a choice to make a positive step forward. They have not died in vain.
“We will overcome.”