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[Slideshow] Murray & Paducah Vigils for Orlando Victims Bring Together Diverse Communities

Community members in Murray and Paducah held candlelight vigils last night remembering the victims of the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando over the weekend, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

In Murray, more than 160 people, ranging in age, race and gender identity shared somber reflection, readings and music. The question of ‘what next?’ and ‘how can one help?’ emerged as a theme in the evening remarks.

Murray State professor Joe Hedges, who is openly gay, offers this suggestion: “ remind all of our straight friends to tell somebody who is gay that you love them. And I think that’s a very simple thing that can be done that can help. People are asking ‘what can I do?’ Do that. If nothing else, tell somebody that you know is gay that you love them.”

Murray State LGBT Coordinator and Chair of the Murray Human Rights Commission Jody Cofer Randall says while it’s important to talk about what happened and work through feelings, she is frustrated by yet another shooting, which she says is "sadly becoming the norm."

“How many more people have to die? I mean, I just want to know that. I just want to know. One? Two? Fifty? How many more people have to die before we say ‘let’s fix this,'” she says.

Cofer Randall adds while it’s important to work through feelings, she urges the community to not just claim to be an ‘LGBT Ally’ unless you plan on doing something with that title.

She says she is hopeful that ‘smarter minds will prevail’ and changes may happen this time so long as the community is willing to work through it.

Monday night's vigil included several members of the faith community, with readings and reflections from Rev. Dr. Renne Meyer, Rev. Dr. Rose Bogal-Allbritten, Rev. Dr. Ruth Ragovin and a reading of the Muslim peace prayer by Father Brandon Williams.

Constance Alexander shared a poem reflecting on the shooting, Dr. Cynthia Gayman offered her thoughts in a passionate speech, Stephen Keene sang True Colors and Dr. Don Robertson reiterated Murray State's support for the LGBT community. In an emotional conclusion, a girl from First Christian Church concluded the memorial, followed by an impromptu heartfelt speech by MSU President Dr. Bob Davies.

In Paducah, residents lit candles at the riverfront and shared in fellowship. Over the sound of cars driving by and a barge moving across the water, one speaker said, "It warms my heart that so many people are here supporting the LGBT community. And I'm just happy to be alive. Being gay is not always easy, but what makes it bearable is when people show up for you."

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