At Ferndale vigil, Detroiters stand united with Orlando

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Ferndale — On Saturday, Harriet Rivkin found acceptance at an LGBT festival in Detroit that inspired her to open up about her orientation.

But by Sunday morning, news of mass killings at a gay club in Orlando moved her from comfort to anger, sadness, fear — and later resilience — at a vigil honoring those lost.

“Feeling so safe and part of this embracing community to then waking up and feeling personally attacked, that was a long way to fall emotionally,” said Rivkin, 24, who is gay.

Rivkin was among hundreds who gathered Sunday evening outside Ferndale City Hall after the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. Some sat cross-legged on the grass; others were draped in pride flags or held poster boards proclaiming “Detroit Loves Orlando” and “Hope will never be silent.”

Authorities say Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida, referred to the Islamic State in a 911 call early Sunday before he opened fire with an assault-type rifle in a gay nightclub, killing at least 50 and injuring 53 others.

“It’s not something you want to anticipate,” Rivkin said. “So much of coming together as a community is always focused on moving forward, rising up and overcoming these obstacles. We’re not going to sit around and think ‘Oh, well what if they do that. How are they going to get us next?’”

Julia Music, a founder of Ferndale Pride, organized the vigil to bring the community together.

“We need to keep speaking out to our government and we need to make sure people understand exactly what is happening is terrorism, and LGBT communities are in danger,” Music said. “But we need to be out of the closet and we need our allies to be out of the closet. We need strong voices in our community so that our kids know it’s safe to grow up and be gay.”

Ferndale’s mayor praised the crowd for standing up “in the face of strong hatred.”

“And so, pain is once again an uninvited guest in our country,” said David Coulter, listing the Sandy Hook shootings and World Trade Center attacks among those that have shaken Americans.

Such attacks, said the Rev. Ric Beattie, are reason to stand with Orlando.

“In America lately we are lulled to go back to sleep quickly,” said Beattie of Unity of Royal Oak who joined the Ferndale vigil. “We need to remain awake. It’s not just an attack on LGBT community, which I’ve been a part of since the age of 5, it’s an attack on everybody.”

Rivkin’s friend, Jennifer Fay, 23, joined her to reflect on the weekend’s events and look toward healing.

“... Giving my heart to the people of Orlando was important to me,” Fay said. “It’s been a rough day.”