Penn State Community Gathers in Solidarity for Orlando

Students, faculty and community members gathered outside of Old Main Monday night in solidarity for those affected by the Orlando nightclub shooting.

Edward Sotomayor Jr. loved to travel. He loved to travel so much that worked in the industry as a brand manager for, a LGBT travel agency headquartered in Sarasota, FL.

Juan Ramon Guerrero attended the University of Central Florida. This was the first year that 22-year-old Guerrero was “out” to his family. What he didn’t realize, is that they accepted him regardless of his orientation.

Kimberly Morris was always full of life. For her, this past weekend was normal routine for the 37-year-old Pulse nightclub bouncer who recently moved from Hawaii to help her family.

Then there was Akyra Monet Murry, an 18-year-old recent graduate from West Catholic Prep in Philadelphia. Murry was a basketball star who was a member of the famed 1,000 point club at her high school. She was in Orlando celebrating graduation before she was off to Mercyhurst College on a full-ride for basketball.

After her….45.

45 more lives that took their last breaths in Pulse Nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning. 45 more families that will forever be without their loved ones. 45 more funerals. 45 more lives that were ended in the name of hate and bigotry.

In State College, PA, some 1,000 miles away from the scene of now the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, a sense of sorrow was in the air. Students, faculty and community members came together to remember those perished, wounded and affected  by the Orlando nightclub shooting.

“Shock. I mean it’s just a horrifying incident and it’s just very upsetting in a number of ways,” said Sara Jamshidi, a doctoral mathematics student. “I hope that there’s legislation passed to make it harder for people to do this. To make it harder to get guns and use them against people.”

Planned by efforts from community organizations, campus resource centers and students clubs, the candlelight vigil was attended by more than 150 in the Penn State Community. 


#WeAreOrlando buttons were given out to those in attendance. Photo Credit:  Matthew Lamas

A few notable faculty and staff were in attendance as well including Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas P. Jones, Vic Provost for Educational Equity Marcus Whitehurst,  director of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center Carlos Wiley and Molly Barron, wife of University President Eric Barron.

Jones, Whitehurst and Wiley, along with other staff members and students all offered words of encouragement to the crowd. “By coming together tonight, we stand in solidarity”, Jones said.

For some, this tragedy hit closer to home than others. Diego Chaves, a graduate student from Brazil who identifies as both Latino and a member of the LGBT community, was surprised at how politicized the event became in the media. 

“At first I was really shocked and almost terrified and after that I just became appalled with all of these people using it for their interests,” Chaves said. [Referencing the events that almost conspired at LA Pride] “It makes me very scared of everything. It’s part of the backlash. I just keep hoping it doesn’t happen again.” 

Hanna DeMarte, a junior majoring in English hopes that change will come for those in LGBT community. “It is so important that the queer community comes together in support and love right now,” DeMarte said. “But love is not all we need. Our anger is useful and we must use it.”

As the vigil came to an end, a bell was rang to honor each victim.

“Now more than ever is when Penn State can become a leader in inclusion,” said Wiley.

Header Photo Credit: Matthew Lamas 

Orlando victim information gathered from

About Adriana Lacy (64 Articles)
Adriana is from the oh-so-famous town of “Right Outside of Philly,” Pennsylvania currently double majoring in Public Relations and African-American Studies. She is a passionate sports fan, avid reader, and an obsessive tweeter. In her spare time, she enjoys writing about sports and social justice while drinking urban-framed, artisan crafted coffee. A proud black student, Adriana considers herself a social justice warrior and strives to promote racial equality and diversity in her community. Email her at and tweet with her at @adriana_lacy

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