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Buffalo honors the Orlando shooting victims

Niagara Square was packed Monday night as community members mourned those killed in Orlando during the nation's most violent mass shooting.

For many of those in packed into the square, the killings were personal. As one speaker noted, gay night clubs have always been considered "our safe space."

It was one of many thoughts shared as the gathering tried to make sense of the senseless.

"Here on this date, we're able to stand together in the face of such unfathomable loss. When we stand together we are strong. We have the power," Stonewall Democrats President Bryan Ball told gathering, encouraging them to move forward.

The speaker list included Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Mayor Byron Brown, Episcopal Bishop William Franklin and Western New York Muslims Founder Faizan Haq.

"We still do not have all the information regarding this massacre. Make no mistake about it, this appears to have been a targeted attack against the LGBTQ community. This was an attack against all of us because when you attack the LGBTQ community, you are attacking the very fabric of America," Poloncarz said.

Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash also shared some thoughts.

"Today we are in solidarity. We are one, together, with our children that we will never, ever let any violence, any act of hatred defeat us."

The issue of gun control was touched upon, though it wasn't central to the spirit of the evening.

"Let's hope none of us here carry judgment in our hearts," said activist Kitty Lambert-Rudd. "This was not an action by the Muslim community. This was an action by a man who was mentally ill, with a gun."

The vigil drew a sea of people from across the community, many with U.S. flags and the rainbow flag of gay liberation. Others carried posters with messages of peace and love.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.