Thousands gather at Philly vigil to grieve, stand up to hate

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The city of Philadelphia held a vigil Monday night to honor the memory of the 49 killed in Florida Sunday.

Thousands turned out for the event, filling the north side of City Hall, singing and praying to begin the healing process after the mass murder at the gay nightclub in Orlando.

They carried candles, hugged one another and steadied those overcome with grief. 

Nellie Fitzpatrick, who leads the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs, said the community is stronger after the tragedy — and that no one is alone.

“Not a single one of us,” said Fitzpatrick, speaking amid the flag-waving, weeping crowd. “No matter how you walk through life, how you identify, how you pray, how you worship, where you are from, what neighborhood you are in, what your socioeconomic status, your ability, your disability, you are not alone.”

Kim Singleton said she and her wife came to the rally to stand up against hatred.

“We, as a country, need to decide whether we are tired of it,” Singleton said. “And I certainly hope we are.”

Mayor Jim Kenney said the vigil was an opportunity to remember and mourn, and to “stand united against the attacks and the hate that fueled them.”

One of those mourned Monday night was Akyra Murray, who had just graduated from West Catholic High School in Philadelphia.

“She was always looking out for her classmates and friends.  She was never mixed up in any kind of drama.  She was always just kind of level,” said Aaron Spence, a mentor and a counselor to Murray. “She knew she was going to be successful as long as she worked hard, and she did that.”

The 18-year-old basketball standout was vacationing with her family in Orlando.

Murray, who was mown down by the shooter’s assault rifle with dozens of others at the nightclub, was planning to attend Mercyhurst University in Erie on a full scholarship.

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