Thousands of San Diegans gathered in the heart of Hillcrest on Monday to remember and honor the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.
People spilled into the streets outside of the San Diego LGBT Community Center during the vigil.
It was a night of singing, hugging, and thinking about a tragedy which, for this community, hits particularly close to home.
“I think no matter what, I think it’s going to be a special night, it’s going to be an amazing. Our community’s going to come together. There’s a lot of people mourning the losses and people still struggling so it’s an opportunity for everyone to come together and mourn together,” Ian Johnson, Director of Events at the San Diego LGBT Center said.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Chief Shelley Zimmerman and other city officials were also present.
Mayor Faulconer addressed the crowd inside the center and said that hate will not win.
“We stand with Orlando, ladies and gentlemen; we will continue to stand with pride,” he said.
About 1500 people RSVP’d to the event on Facebook for what is being considered as the largest “Orlando Strong” event in San Diego.
“You can’t help but just be proud for what we are, how far we’ve come, and I’ve only been ‘out’ for 2 years and my family and friends have supported us,” said Sean O’Conner, a vigil attendee.
SDPD shut down a portion of University Avenue for more than an hour to accommodate the crowd spilling onto the streets.
People marched to the LGBT flag in the center of Hillcrest where a memorial had been set up.
Someone released monarch butterflies as the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus sang in honor those who lost their lives.
In an emotional conclusion to the vigil, the names of all 49 victims were read out at Rich's, a popular gay nightclub in Hillcrest.
“It could’ve been any of us, at any place, at any time, and that’s the worst part,” said O'Conner.