The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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April 18, 2024

Whitman hosts vigil for Orlando victims, stands up to intolerance

Students participate in the a vigil honoring the victims of the Orlando shooting.

Stanley Almodovar—age 23. Edward Sotomayor—age 34. Juan Ramon Guerrero—age 22. As students continued to read 46 more names, the Whitman courtyard remained absolutely silent.

The Whitman community united June 15 to honor the 49 lives lost June 12 at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The Whitman event included a moment of silence and student perspectives on the shooting.

“There were vigils around D.C. last night, but a lot of students said they didn’t feel safe going to them,” said junior Calem Riggs, who helped coordinate the vigil. “I wanted to create a space where people could mourn and talk about it, but feel safe doing so.”

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The vigil featured speeches from principal Alan Goodwin, former Leadership sponsor Sheryl Freedman, English teacher Laurie Safran and student volunteers. Though all of the speakers presented different perspectives, they all shared one common idea: how to remember lives lost, and live without the fear of being harmed because of their sexual orientation or religion.

“I could pretend to be straight or a girl, but I’m not,” said freshman Isaac DeMarchi, who is openly transgender and gay. “Because I’m transgender, I feel like I’m walking around with a target on my back. This is just part of being LGBT, but it shouldn’t be.”

Senior speaker Muhammad Rasendriya also focused on the idea of fear, but in a different way. Despite the media’s portrayal of Muslims throughout the country, the fact that so many people gathered to promote religious tolerance shows tolerance does exist, he said.

“To all of my friends in the LGBT community, we’re in this fight together,” Rasendriya said.

Despite the vigil’s somber environment, it helped people understand different perspectives on the shooting more fully, Riggs said.

“Everyone here seemed to be really emotionally affected,” Riggs said. “A big part of what people can do to help is advocating for the LGBT and Muslim communities who’ve been affected by prejudice.”

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Lily Friedman
Lily Friedman, Online Editor-in-Chief

Grade: 12


Interests: Writing, sports, politics, music, hiking


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  • AnonymousJun 26, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    great story