JACKSON HEIGHTS — Standing in the center of Diversity Plaza, a crowd of locals and community leaders vowed Sunday to stay united after 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Flanked by signs reading "Don't turn homophobia into Islamophobia and war," Councilman Danny Dromm joined other mourners in the heart of Jackson Heights, the most diverse zip code on the planet, which features both a large Muslim and LGBTQ community.
"I wanted to be sure that nobody divides us," said Dromm, who organized the vigil within hours of the attack, in which police say gunman Omar Mateen pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State before carrying out the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
For Dromm, and for the more than two dozen people who spoke at the vigil, the focus was on the community's unity and strength after another tragedy. Diversity Plaza has hosted both the Queens Pride Festival and Ramadan celebrations — both of which are being celebrated in June.
"No matter what happens, nobody will divide us," he said. "Nobody will pit LGBT people against Muslim people, or against anybody."
The emotional vigil featured tables of flowers and lit candles; many cried as people spoke to denounce the attack.
St. Pat's for All parade organizer Brendan Fay said he wept when reading the news.
He said he carried fear in his heart — because he knows what it's like to be denounced "from pulpits, from books, on the streets."
"But also, I know what it's like to find hope," he said through tears.
"We send from this place a love to all of those that have nothing but grief and loss," he said.
"May the love from this place go forth and help overcome prejudice and hate in our streets, in our communities and our nation. May love prevail."
"Don't turn homophobia into Islamaphobia and war" pic.twitter.com/cZjPknkdD3— katie honan (@katie_honan) June 12, 2016