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Vigils Held in Tampa, St. Pete For Victims Of Orlando Mass Shooting

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Mary Shedden/WUSF
Several hundred people gathered at St. Petersburg's city on Sunday hall at dusk for a candle light vigil.

About one hundred people gathered near the Metro Wellness Center in Ybor City Sunday night to remember the victims of the Orlando shooting.

Like another vigil held in St. Petersburg, a collection of interfaith groups and other civic activist groups organized the gathering.

Joel Bates is a Tampa resident with friends in Orlando who go to the Pulse nightclub, the LGBT nightclub where the massacre took place. He says none of them were hurt in the shooting.

“I think that it's very important that people don't get confused about what happened here today,” Bates said. “A sick individual attacked a bunch of innocent fun loving, young Americans. That's what happened.”

Former Orlando residents were among those attending.

Ray Stearns is a recent Tampa resident who attended the University of Central Florida and has been to Pulse.

“I knew some people that worked there and I also knew some people who went out last night to Pulse,” Stearns said. “And luckily most of them have been identified and they are ok.”

The Tampa resident said she's thankful for Facebook 'Marked Safe' feature which let her know that her friends were safe. She said many of her friends lost their cell phones inside the nightclub.

Several hundred people gathered at St. Petersburg's city hall at dusk for a candle light vigil.

The city's mayor and council members joined leaders from several faith communities to show solidarity against the shooting in Orlando that killed 50 and injured dozens.

Joran Oppelt is president of the city's interfaith alliance. He told the crowd the shootings were a crime against all people.

“Tonight for me is not about guns, it's not about politics, it’s not about religion, it's not about your sexual preference. Tonight for me is about hatred,” Oppelt said.

Nick Kosobud of Largo joined his fiancé and stepson at the vigil. A transgender activist, Kosobud says the vigil is a sign that hate crimes can be fought.

“Tonight gives me a sense of hope that through tragedy, we as humans can still come together and use strength in numbers to show change,” Kosobud said.

Organizers of the vigil also shared information about grief counseling and other resources for the community.

In a statement released Monday, University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft said the USF System stands with the Orlando community in the shared values of inclusion, respect and care for one another. 

"Our hearts are heavy as we grieve with our friends and family," Genshaft said. " Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with all the victims, their families, friends, and others who have been affected."

Several other vigils are planned around the Tampa Bay area tonight. 

  • A vigil will take place in Sarasota at 8 p.m. at Five Points Park. 
  • A vigil will be held in Lakeland at 7:30 p.m. at Lake Mirror.
  • USF will be holding a vigil at 5:30 p.m. at the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater with a rain location inside the Marshall Student Center. 
  • A candlelight vigil will take place at 7 p.m. in the parking lot across the street from Southern Nights, 1430 E. 7th Ave. in Ybor City. 

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