"Ellos solo querian bailar," said Jorge Bautista, a minister at the Congregational Church of San Mateo, speaking at a June 17 vigil held at the county center in Redwood City to mourn the 49 people who died in a shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. Translated, Mr. Bautista's statement says, "They only wanted to dance."
He gave remarks, along with a number of other church leaders, such as the Rev. Terri Echelbarger of the Peninsula Metropolitan Church, the Rev. Stefanie Etzbach-Dale of the Unitarian Universalist fellowship of Redwood City, and the Rev. Dr. G. Penny Nixon of the Congregational Church of San Mateo. The vigil, held at 4 p.m., was attended by at least 100 people.
"What we do with our grief means a whole lot more than what those bullets mean," the Rev. Etzbach-Dale said.
"I've buried more gay men than are in this crowd," the Rev. Dr. G. Penny Nixon said. "We don't have the luxury to despair ... we need to put feet to our prayers to create real and abiding change."
Andre Camarillo, a gay 21-year-old man who recently graduated from Menlo College, said he was at first surprised when he was approached to give remarks.
"Why me?" he said he asked himself. "I'm not a legislator or activist. I'm just a gay 21-year-old first generation American Latino. And then I realized, I am Pulse."
He had been celebrating his sister's wedding the night of the shooting, and when he parted from his parents afterward, he said his father told him to be like Emiliano Zapata, a figure of the Mexican Revolution. He then told his son one of Zapata's best-known quotes, which, translated, means, "I'd rather die on my feet, than live on my knees."
Mr. Camarillo was there with two friends, Samantha Newman and Keisha Watanabe. He said they recently formed a Gay-Straight Alliance at Menlo College.
In concluding the event, Jai Africa, LGBTQ commissioner for San Mateo County, gave a list of things that people can do to stem violence and hate locally. Be kind. Be an LGBTQ ally if you are straight, heterosexual, or cisgender. Recognize power and privilege dynamics and promote equality and equity where possible. If you are a legislator, advocate for gun control. If you are a religious leader, bring people together. If you are a teacher, teach the history of LGBTQ issues and leadership. If you are a leader or manager, hire people with diverse backgrounds and experiences and seek to serve the most vulnerable. If you are part of the LGBTQ community, be present, visible, and proud.