An event as heartbreaking as the recent mass murder of 49 people at Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando, Fla. left the entire country in shambles. This direct act of hatred toward the LGBTQ+ community made homosexual Americans and many others fear for their lives and for the fate of this country.
America remains scattered with homophobic people who refuse to accept that love is love, regardless of gender. However, in these times of tragedy, people of all sexualities have come together in solidarity, and the presence of LGBTQ+ supporters now appears more prevalent than ever.
The students of Corona del Mar High School’s “Trident” magazine staff chose to voice their support of the LGBTQ+ community on and off campus, and pay tribute to the victims of the attack.
“Regardless of our political views, I think it’s essential that students of all sexualities on our campus are provided with a loving environment in which they feel safe, accepted, and worthy. Observing a tragedy in the middle of Pride Month prompted us to raise awareness to the fact that LGBTQ+ community members are always fighting an uphill battle, even as our society progresses,” sophomore Delaney Ivey said.
On June 13, Trident launched the Pray For Orlando photo and quote series on social media, sharing heartfelt student responses to the Orlando shooting.
“Providing CdM students a platform to express their voice, as Trident did with the Pray For Orlando series, is important because ‘hearing’ the feelings expressed in the quotes redirects us to focus on love and acceptance, rather than hate and ostracization. It may prompt people to reevaluate their prejudiced views and realize violence against people in the LGBTQ+ community could tragically affect one of their friends,” English teacher and Trident advisor Laura Holk said.
The series was filled with sadness, sincerity, and pride. It received such a positive reaction that the Trident staff decided to take their support of CdM’s LGBTQ+ community to the next level.
In just 24 hours, the Trident editors planned a memorial ceremony for the victims of the Orlando shooting. They advertised Thursday, June 16 as a school-wide Pride Day, encouraging the staff and students to attend the memorial wearing rainbow to match the colors of the gay pride flag.
“I was beyond excited when I found out our school was going to have Pride Day. Being in the closet at our school is a scary thing, but events like this help those who are afraid realize that there are others out there just like them. They’re all over our school, and even those who aren’t LGBTQ+ are still likely to be there for you. Just as the name entails, Pride Day inspires us in the queer community to be proud of who we are,” junior Sara Marshall said.
The morning of the memorial ceremony, Trident staff members decked out the quad with freshly painted posters and rainbow streamers, even wrapping the Sea King, CdM’s mascot statue, in a blanket of color and pride. The names of the 49 casualties from the Orlando shooting were written on tags and tied to flowers. A banner was laid out for students to sign and pledge their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
When the 10 o’clock bell rang for break, students flooded the quad, wearing rainbow and tie-dye shirts with pride.
Members of all five choirs from CdM’s Vocal Music Department took the stage to perform a tribute to those who had their lives mercilessly stripped away in the Orlando shooting. They sang “Seasons of Love,” the title song for their spring concert. Junior Tyler Mardis and senior Ethan Lindt sang lead vocals in a touching performance that left many students teary eyed.
“The memorial created such a warm and loving atmosphere on campus. It felt like we were all united and left the labels at the door to accept each other as humans first. I loved that all the students got involved and showed so much respect and support,” Spanish teacher Elisa Ramirez said.
“I thought the memorial service was so great. It was one of those events that made me proud to be a Sea King. I feel that a lot of the time people only talk very surface level about tragedies, even the ones that take place here in the U.S. It’s hard for people to connect what they’re hearing to the actual reality of what has happened. This memorial brought the issue straight to our school, and has already started an important conversation,” Marshall said.
The banner, reading, “I Stand With The LGBTQ+ Community,” was completely covered in signatures within 10 minutes. The Trident staff deemed the memorial ceremony an overwhelming success.
“Seeing students, teachers, and staff unite on one front and stand in solidarity against hate was an emotional, overwhelming experience. I’m endlessly thankful for each individual who demonstrated their love for our school, our nation, and our world,” Ivey said.
The Trident editors plan to mail the signed banner, along with a book of student quotes from the Pray For Orlando series and photos from the memorial ceremony, to the mayor’s office in Orlando. They hope to spread the love and acceptance expressed on campus to places like Orlando where it is needed most.
“I’m so proud of my Trident students for their ability to recognize that something can be done to bring light to the epidemic of mass shootings in our country. If the younger generation can foster love for one another, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, then maybe events like the Orlando tragedy will diminish. I’m proud of my Trident students for showing so much compassion, which teaches others compassion too,” Holk said.
Although LGBTQ+ students may be in the minority on campus, the entire CdM student body shared their compassion and grief over this senseless tragedy, fostering a growing culture of acceptance in their community and beyond.