Columbia vigil: ‘It could have been me’

Midlands gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocates united Sunday at The Capital Club in the wake of the United States’ worst mass shooting – the slayings at an Orlando gay club.

The shootings left 50 dead and 53 injured.

“It’s just hard to get a grasp of something this evil and this horrific,” said Garry Dollahite, vice president of the Capital Club, which touts itself as Columbia’s oldest gay bar.

In the United States, people can go where they want and be who they want as long as they do not violate the rights of others, Dollahite, who visited the Orlando club, Pulse, recently, told the roughly 100 who attended the vigil.

“I’m hoping the fear doesn’t win right now,” said Jeff Marsh, president of S.C. Pride, the Columbia parade and festival that supports lesbian, gay and transgender people.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott also appeared Sunday at the Capital Club. Lott told those attending the vigil that law enforcement stands with the gay community.

Lott said he and Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook plan to increase security to protect the gay community, targeted in Orlando. Three Columbia Police Department officers stood outside the bar during Sunday’s vigil.

“Terrorists’ best weapon is fear,” Lott said. “We cannot live in fear.”

Marsh encouraged the gay community to be seen and heard. “Now is the time to walk hand-in-hand down the street and be seen,” Marsh said.

Mandy Medlock brought her 17-year-old daughter Ella Augustine to the vigil to support the LGBT community. Mass shootings have become routine, Augustine said.

“I don’t want my kid growing up in a world that has mass shootings every other week,” the teenager said.

But that is the world Medlock’s children have known. She told her daughter the news of the Orlando shooting through tears Sunday morning, shortly after Augustine woke up.

“It’s terrifying to feel this powerless,” Medlock said, adding she would like to see action by state and federal leaders to tighten laws.

Dayna Smith, a transgender woman who lives in Columbia, noted the Orlando massacre occurred just before the first anniversary of last June’s Emanuel AME Church massacre, which left nine dead.

The Charleston tragedy also resonated with Smith, who said the Bible study, which ended in a bloodbath, could have been an LGBT meeting.

“Here we are looking at it again,” Smith said of the victims of the Orlando shooting. “It could have been me.”

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

South Carolinians react to the mass murder in Orlando

‘Our community grieves’

... A gunman filled with hate took the lives of 50 LGBT brothers and sisters and wounded many more in an Orlando nightclub. Tremendous thanks is due to law enforcement and other first responders who stepped into harm’s way to help victims.

Today, our community grieves for the victims and families affected by this senseless gun violence. We are reminded to be cautious in the coming weeks, but we also are called to help those directly affected by this tragedy. ... Join SC Equality in letting Orlando know that South Carolina stands with them.

S.C. Equality, a Columbia-based gay-rights advocacy group, on Facebook

‘Hate is never the answer’

‘My heart hurts today. We don't all have to agree all the time, but hate is never the answer.’

— S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, on Facebook

‘We are fighting a war ... not a crime’

This is a horrific day for America. ... I fear this will prove to be system failure. Congress should immediately restore the budgets for our intelligence and law enforcement communities which have been suffering. ... My goal is to prevent future terrorist attacks, not simply respond to them. We are fighting a war against radical Islam and a hateful ideology, not a crime.

— U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, on Facebook

‘You are only strengthening our resolve’

Last night, we unfortunately were faced once again with what happens when someone is overwhelmed by hate. The atrocity in Orlando has left Florida and our nation in shock, and I know that over the next few days we will come together and show the world that America stands as one against terror and those who would do us harm. ...

To ISIS and Islamic terror groups and fighters around the globe — your senseless acts, driven by your misguided and heartless belief in a bloody, global jihad, will not defeat us. You are only strengthening our resolve, sturdying our footing and sealing your own fate.

— U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, in a statement

‘Another unfathomable act of evil, of hate’

... (T)his was clearly yet another unfathomable act of evil, of hate, perpetrated against good and decent people who loved their lives and did nothing wrong. Their loss, and the loss their friends and loved ones must now somehow endure, is simply incomprehensible — and heartbreaking. ...

One year ago this week, we here in Charleston were brought face to face with the same kind of evil that the people of Orlando are being forced to reckon with today, when nine beautiful souls were viciously stolen from us by a racist gunman in the basement of Mother Emanuel AME church.

— Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, in a statement

‘We all stand with you’

The hate-filled killings in ‪Orlando‬ is an act of terrorism and the attack on the LGBTQ community is an attack on all Americans. ... We all stand with you in grief prayer and resolve.

— State Rep. James Smith, on Twitter

Wage ‘war against radical Islam’

This is an attack on every American by radical Islam, and we have no choice but to respond. ... It shouldn’t take a tragedy like this to cause us to open our eyes about the threats before us, but if we do not pause to do some soul searching about how we talk about and address Islamic terrorism in this country, we are dishonoring those who have perished and are simply acting foolishly.

We must unite as Americans and send a resolute signal that there can be no tolerance for the type of radicalism being pushed by Islamic State and others anywhere in the world. We must also not allow a misplaced sense of political correctness to prevent us from waging war against radical Islam.

— U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, in a press release

‘Horrific attacks’

Almost a year ago, Charleston was rocked by killings fueled by hatred. I am deeply saddened to learn of the horrific attacks in Orlando this morning — the worst mass shooting in our country's history.

— U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, on Facebook

‘Horrific shooting’

Prayers from @CityofColumbia for the people & families hurt in the horrific shooting in Orlando.

— Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, on Twitter

‘Prayers ... with the victims’

@My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the attack in #Orlando and their families.

— U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, on Twitter