At 8 pm on Tuesday, June 14, dozens of LGBT men and women assembled in a small neighborhood park in Shinjuku, Tokyo, to remember and mourn those murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday.
Participants included a lot of people who, like me, came alone, drawn by the need for community in the face of one of history's most harrowing reminders that homophobia kills.
|"Stand up for love"|
The names of the victims of the massacre were read out by one of the organizers - feelings of grief evident both in his delivery and the wordless voices of those listening - followed by a minute's silence.
The press presence was evident, if not overwhelming, with at least a reporter from the Japan Times, one or two photographers, and a TV camera emblazoned with "Reuters."
|"Rest in peace, my brothers and sisters"|
The march around the neighborhood was subdued and respectful. Being nighttime, passersby were relatively few - but our presence on the streets of the city was nonetheless a powerful symbol that Tokyo was thinking of Orlando, that people half a world away shared that feeling of belonging.
About 15 minutes after setting out, the procession entered Naka-dori, the main street of Shinjuku Ni-Chome, where it met up and joined forces with another vigil being held. A lone trumpeter played "We Shall Overcome" as the combined mourners of a tragedy yet celebrants of an undying love wended their way back to Hanazono Nishi Koen Park.
The last hour, between 9 and 10 pm, was when emotions ran their highest, as speakers from among those gathered rose to address the rest with impromptu messages: a school teacher who related how he was able to broach the tragedy with a class of 12 year olds and add scope to their understanding of how people should treat each other, a social worker who mourned the death of a social worker - someone on the same journey through life as herself, two former residents of Orlando, one of whom mourned the passing, too, of Pulse as a haven for gay men, particularly black and Hispanic, among many others who shared their grief. The strongest message was that fear had no place in the reaction to what had happened and that strength and love formed the only path forward.
|"We shall overcome"|
Being on a site surrounded by apartments, the crowd kept its reactions quiet, responding to speakers with fingersnaps rather than handclaps.
It was an evening of solidarity between both friends and strangers in Shinjuku, Tokyo, last night - three hours that, through all the heartbreak they sought to mend, shone a light that will glow for a long, long time to come.
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