In unity, USF community gathers to remember [video]

Students, faculty and staff gathered in the heart of USF June 13 to honor and remember the victims of the recent shooting at an Orlando nightclub, as well as to feel a connection of unity and comfort in the aftermath of such horror.

In her welcoming remarks, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Danielle McDonald quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, saying “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

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“We’re coming together as a community to mourn the tragic events of this weekend in Orlando,” McDonald said. “Regardless of whether you knew someone who was a victim, our community feels the loss. This is the time for us to unite and support each other in love and drive out hate.”

Leading the group of speakers was Judy Genshaft, president of the USF System, who spoke of the heartbreak and the fear, but also of the love and the diversity that makes up the USF community.

“As I stand here with members of my University of South Florida family, I take comfort in seeing you come together in a show of solidarity,” President Genshaft said. “Across the University of South Florida System, we are proud of our diversity and our culture of inclusion. As a community of scholars, we draw our intellectual and creative strength from people from many nations, races, religions, cultures, ages, identities and orientations. We strive to set an example for our community for what living and learning in harmony is all about. We are a welcoming community for all. We cannot let these events change us or how we relate to one another. We cannot let this violence make us numb. We cannot let it force us into fear and isolation that only further drives us apart. We must continue to live with open minds and open hearts.

“The freedom to live as we want, love who we want, learn what we want, and speak our truths, has been hard won over the ages. This is a big community of 48,000 people. But tonight we stand together to say there is no room for fear and hate here. Our USF family is a tapestry of many different kinds of people and better for it.”

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USF Student Government Vice President Alec Waid urged his classmates to stand strong.

“To say that this is a tragedy, that makes college students stop and think about the fragility of life, is an immense understatement,” Waid said. “The people killed and injured at Pulse nightclub were doing what most of us do, doing what people who are full of life do every weekend. It makes you stop and think what it truly means to live in the moment. We are lucky here at USF because we come together as students at a time in our lives when anything is possible, when we can do anything. We dream of changing the world and we dream of doing it with our friends by our sides. And I know the people in that club, whether they were 19, or 27 or 50 years old, dreamed of doing the same exact thing.

“If we can get anything from this, we see a challenge that’s posed to our generation because we cannot let this hatred define our reality. We cannot let this violence define our reality. We should not and we will not live in fear because of these dangerous attitudes and actions. I want our campus community to remember the victims in Orlando for the right reasons. Not as victims of a hate-filled terrorist attack, but of people who lived boldly, people who lived freely and who lived true to themselves. We have to talk to each other and understand each other because we are a community based upon inclusion and a community based upon unity. And we owe it to the victims and their families to give lasting meaning to the lives that are lost.”

Unity Memorial

Daniel Cruz-Ramirez de Arellano, PhD, a faculty member in the USF Department of Chemistry, spoke of the critical need for each of us to turn to our USF community for support.

“Thank you all for being here and for responding to the collective call of remembrance and collective mourning,” Dr. Cruz said. “As a USF community, we must stand together in happy times and in sad times of tragedy because we are each other’s support group. I am proud to be part of an institution that pulls together like this. I know firsthand the challenges that arise just because of daring to be who you are, daring to be your authentic self. We are all just people, here in this world, together. As we mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters, it might be easy to give in to feelings of vengeance or even feelings of hate. But today I say to you that I reject vengeance. I reject hate. I reject the bitterness. And, instead, I choose love, I choose hope, and I choose unity. Because united, all of us, LGBT or otherwise, Latino or otherwise, can be a force for positive change. A force for love.”

Then, as the sun set in the west, the group of several hundred walked from the USF Marshall Student Center Amphitheater to the MLK Plaza to set carnations next to the King statue, flow around the fountain and sign a banner in solidarity — a united USF community.

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Unity Memorial

Unity Memorial

Unity Memorial

Unity Memorial

Unity Memorial

Unity Memorial

Unity Memorial

Unity Memorial

Memorial held at USF to pay respect for those slain and injured in Orlando during the Pulse nightclub shooting.

 

Unity Memorial

Unity Memorial

 

Unity Memorial

Photos by Eric Younghans and video by Sandra C. Roa, USF Health Office of Communications