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New Yorkers Mourn Orlando Shooting Victims: ‘They Could’ve Been Us’

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Waving rainbow flags and holding signs with messages such as “Keep Dancing” and “We Stand with Orlando,” a large crowd gathered in front of The Stonewall Inn in New York City Monday night to commemorate the victims of the Orlando attack.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, pop star Nick Jonas and others spoke out about gun control and LGBT rights as they honored the 49 people who were killed when a shooter opened fire early Sunday morning at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

“Until we have a national [gun] policy, none of us are safe,” Cuomo told the thousands of people who stood outside The Stonewall Inn, a gay rights landmark that has become a place for New York’s LGBT community to celebrate victories and mourn losses. “This is an American curse,” Cuomo continued. “This was not just a senseless act. It targeted the LGBTQ community.”

De Blasio urged urged people from around the U.S. to come to New York for the annual NYC Pride parade on June 26.

“To Latino New Yorkers, we stand with you and we will protect you,” de Blasio said. “To LGBT New Yorkers, we stand with you and we will protect you. Muslim New Yorkers, we stand with you.”

John Peña, 21, a New York City resident who identifies as a gay Afro-Latino man, said he wouldn’t let the Orlando attack keep him from the upcoming Pride parade.

“Fear can’t win,” Peña said at Monday night’s vigil. “People are afraid to march in Pride, but I’m marching.”

Some at the vigil were mourning for a particular victim killed in the mass shooting. For Linda Decheser, a 59-year-old sales specialist from New Jersey, that victim was Shane Evan Tomlinson, a friend of her niece, who lives in Florida.

“We’re all connected in the community,” Decheser said. “I feel compassion, empathy and horror.”

Even those who didn’t have a personal connection to the attack said it hit close to home.

“It feels very personal,” said Dani Villacis, a 20-year- old Baruch College student who identifies as a lesbian. “We were at a pub Friday night, and they could’ve been us.”

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