Finding ways to support, mourn Orlando tragedy in New Hampshire

  • The Greater Concord Interfaith Council held a prayer vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • JJ Smith speaks during a vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • A name was read and a candle was lit for each of the 49 victims in Sunday’s shooting in Orlando during a vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord on Tuesday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • The Greater Concord Interfaith Council held a prayer vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The Greater Concord Interfaith Council held a prayer vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Rev. Emilia Halstead sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” during a vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Merrimack resident Felicia Tomolonis holds out a photo Tuesday of an Orlando vigil while waiting to donate blood at the American Red Cross in Manchester.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Kits Tunney of Concord and Curtiss Rude of Loudon sing “We Shall Overcome” during a vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The Greater Concord Interfaith Council held a prayer vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Greater Concord Interfaith Council vice president Kris Schultz leads a prayer during a vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Temple Beth Jacob cantor Shira Nafshi offers a Hebrew prayer during a vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Kate Russo smiles as the congregation is asked to look around the room, remember they are not alone and to think about love, during a vigil at Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The American Red Cross blood donation center was busy Tuesday afternoon. Communications Manager Mary Brant said that so far, the northern New England center has sent 30 units of type O negative blood to Orlando area hospitals since Sunday's attack. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Kim Raymond, left, waits with her friend, Felicia Tomolonis, right, to donate blood to the American Red Cross Tuesday. Tomolonis, who worked at Disney World for a year and lived in Orlando, knew several people who were inside the gay nightclub, Pulse, during Sunday’s shooting.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/14/2016 11:55:16 PM

Felicia Tomolonis, a 22-year-old Merrimack resident, sat waiting to give blood at the American Red Cross on Tuesday afternoon. Though she donates regularly, Tomolonis said she made a special trip in light of the 49 people killed and the 53 more injured by gunfire at an gay Orlando nightclub Sunday.

Tomolonis was among hundreds of Granite Staters wanting to show love, acknowledgment and support following the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

On Tuesday night, more than 150 people gathered for a vigil at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord. They walked through doors framed by rainbow signs reading, “Equal Before God,” filled the pews and joined in song and prayer during a Greater Concord Interfaith Council service.

When she found out about it Tuesday afternoon, Tomolonis wanted to go to the vigil. First, though, she had to finish donating blood – her personal response to the tragedy that occurred 1,300 miles away.

“I actually lived in Orlando for a year,” she said. Tomolonis was an entertainment worker at Disney World at the time.

She said some of her former co-workers went to the Pulse nightclub and when she heard about the shooting, she feared the worst.

“I kept refreshing the victims list,” she said. She added thankfully that none of her friends were among the list of victims.

“My heart is with them,” Tomolonis said. “We’re all family.”

Earlier in the day, at the Northern New England American Red Cross donation center in Manchester, communications manager Mary Brant said there’s been a “strong showing” since the news of Sunday’s tragedy, and so far, 30 units of Type O negative blood have been sent to Orlando area hospitals.

“We are certainly prepared to donate more,” Brant said.

Renee Dubuc, a 17-year-old Hudson resident, said she was there for her regular appointment Tuesday, though it felt different.

“I’m gay, so it means a lot to me still,” Dubuc said. She added she liked the idea of supporting “distant brothers” in Florida.

Though Dubuc lamented the fact that it seems to take a tragedy to make change, she felt the attack in Florida may bring more awareness and organization to the LGBT community in New Hampshire.

“It just doesn’t seem like there’s much to support the LGBT community and much to celebrate it,” Dubuc said.

On Tuesday night, the Greater Concord Interfaith Council called attention to the need to include everyone. The Rev. Peter Hey of Wesley United Methodist Church told attendees that “holiness demands that we enter our thinking” and root out homophobia.

“May our professions and our remembrances call us to bold actions,” Hey said.

JJ Smith, a Quaker and transgender woman, explained how people can stand up for those persecuted for having different sexual orientations or gender identities.

“It’s really hard to be yourself,” she said. The difficulty of few safe spaces and frequent acts of aggression – even small comments or actions that put down people for their identity can be countered by LGBT allies, she said.

“If others help challenge, ‘Why do you need to do that, why do you need to put that person down?’ – that’s being a good ally,” she said.

Concord resident Ken Roos made a stand on what he felt was most supportive of valuing all lives: he wore an orange vest at the vigil, held up a sign reading, “No more silence. End the violence,” and advocated for gun reform.

“Assault weapons – there’s no place for them in this country other than the military,” Roos said.

He was the only person standing during the vigil’s centerpiece, the reading of the names of the 49 victims killed in Sunday’s attack. A candle was lit and a bell tolled after each name was read. Those in the pews quietly wiped away tears and moaned when the names of the youngest victims, Jason Benjamin Josephat, 19, and Akyra Monet Murray, 18, were spoken aloud.

Just before the entire congregation sung “We Shall Overcome,” the Rev. Bevan Tulk of Havenwood-Heritage Heights reminded attendees why they were there.

“Look around this room and remember you are not alone – you are never alone,” Tulk said.

Concord resident Kathy Bush said that message was just what she needed.

“I needed the community,” she said. “It centered me.”

Up until Tuesday evening, Bush said she didn’t know how to handle the news of the attack.

“I think I was afraid to speak and take a stand.” Now though, Bush said, “I leave here not afraid. I can take action.”

She added, “You could feel the love in there.”

That was what was most important part to Pat O’Connor, a Franklin resident. Holding back tears after the vigil, she said, “I think the way you get rid of hate is showing love.”




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