In response to the devastating attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., June 12, CAMP Rehoboth hosted a service in Rehoboth Beach to honor the 50 people who lost their lives.
More than 100 people packed the courtyard at CAMP lighting candles for each person who was slain. Tears flowed and rainbow flags were raised as participants held loved ones close.
“It’s a whirlwind of emotions,” said CAMP vice-president Chris Beagle, who struggled to hold back tears as he hugged husband Eric Englehart during the service. “I can’t grasp it. Here at CAMP Rehoboth, we felt like we needed to give people an opportunity to gather together because they are our brothers and our sisters. My husband and I have been in bars on Saturday nights for decades because we like music and we like to dance and socialize and be in each other’s company. They were there out of joy and happiness. And their lives were forever taken away. In a small token, in a small way, this a way to reach out and show solidarity and support.”
CAMP founders Steve Elkins and Murray Archibald also spoke, as did Delaware Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, the Rev. Vicki Starnes, the Rabbi Beth Cohen and the Rev. Max Wolf.
The Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub is the worst mass shooting in American history. In addition to at least 50 people who died, 53 more were wounded. The perpetrator was 29-year-old Omar Mateen, whose father said Mateen was enraged by the sight of two men kissing.
“It’s really scary when you can’t go into a place that you think is going to be safe,” Elkins said.
“Hate and intolerance have no place in our country,” Schwartzkopf said. “These people went out to have nice time. And to have them taken away like that is just unbelievably cruel. It’s time for national leaders to step up. It’s going to be a long road. Tell everyone around you that you love them. And that’s how we’ll get through this. Your hearts are breaking, and mine is broken, too. Because friends don’t like seeing friends upset.”
Starnes said, “There’s not a reason for this. This is just evil. Whether you call it the devil or Satan or just an evil presence in the world, there is no reason for this. But God does say that in these times, we grow. It’s a sucky way to grow. But that’s where us being together is so powerful.”
Cohen said, “Today, our emotions are everywhere. We’re sad. We’re mad. We feel badly. And we’re incensed by those who feel glad. We’re horrified. We’re hurt. We’re tired. Tired of these situations. Tired of the inability to fix it. Tired of being part of a community so often targeted. When will it stop?”
The perpetrator’s name was never mentioned during the CAMP Rehoboth ceremony. Instead, those gathered chose to remember and pray for those who lost their lives.
“This is a rough day for all of you,” Schwartzkopf said. “I don’t know what stops it. I really don’t. I could never imagine going to a scene like what’s going on in Orlando. We wonder, what can be done to help get through this? And what we are doing here, right now, is the first step to recover from the hole we are in.”
CAMP Rehoboth founder Murray Archibald said, “To our friends in Orlando: we are with you.”