'People are still uneducated about homophobia,' said Michael Clair.
Headline corrected 1:15 p.m. June 15
Four years ago, on June 12, 2016, a man shot and killed 49 innocent people and wounded 53 others, at Pulse nightclub, in Orlando. At the time the shooting occurred, it was deemed the worst mass shooting at the hands of a single person in the history of the United States.
This massacre has not been forgotten.
On Friday, June 12, 2020, dozens of supporters gathered at Wadsworth Park in Flagler Beach to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
“We are gathered today to spread awareness and happiness in a dark time,” said Eryn Harris, 17, who organized the event. “Our goal was to provide a safe space in this community for people to come together. ... I was in Orlando at the time of the shooting. … I was absolutely devastated.”
Harris graduated from Flagler Palm Coast High School this year and was a proud member of the school’s LGBT club.
Community members Elliot, Randall and Jennifer Bertrand, Abbey Cooke and Toni Mayes also contributed to this event.
“People are still uneducated about homophobia,” said Michael Clair, accompanied by his husband, James, when asked why they were a part of the event. “Plus everybody needs a bit of rainbow in their life.” He said with a smile.
The procession wore colorful flags and posters as it crossed the Flagler Beach bridge toward Veterans Park, accompanied by honking from passersby.
Some of the signs read: “Remember the 49”; “We are all human”; “Homophobia has a cure, education”; and “Free Hugs.”
As the crowd neared Veterans Park, uplifting music could be heard from blocks around. Flagler Beach police officers directed traffic, while the Flagler Beach Fire Department raised the LGBTQ+ and American flags on Fire Engine 11 to show its support.
"This is a pivotal moment in history we all need to be a part of. It just takes a little group to start a revolution.”
“My wife and I were denied by two different places when we were getting married, back in 2015,” said Jeannine Everett, walking with her wife, Joanna. “This was when it was still legal to discriminate against gay people. This is a pivotal moment in history we all need to be a part of. It just takes a little group to start a revolution.”
Spirits were high as the group gathered on the stage and started dancing to music. A conga line quickly formed and wound its way through those sitting on the grassy lawn. It was an energetic event, full of laughter.
As Abbey Cooke, a teacher in Flagler Schools who has been vocal about this issue, began her speech, the crowd became silent. Cooke read off the names of all 49 people who were gunned down and killed at the Pulse nightclub four years prior.
“There will not be change, unless as a collective we come together to change the system, and voting is essential,” Cooke said. “Parents need to remain active in their child's education and continue to hold our schools responsible to protect and represent our community.”