Green. Red. Purple. Blue.
Rainbow-colored lights alternated across the bricks of Century Tower on the University of Florida campus Thursday night to honor the victims and survivors of the Orlando mass shooting.
Sara Tanner, the director of marketing and communications for the Division of Student Affairs, said many students are part of the communities that were targeted in the shooting and have been indirectly affected, so the lights are a way to bring people together.
Tanner said she has heard mostly positive reactions from students, faculty and staff, who are looking forward “to join together with one another, in unity and solidarity with Orlando, with the victims and with the LGBTQ and (Latino) communities.”
She said she has also seen some Facebook posts about the rainbow lighting from incoming freshmen, who live in Orlando and will be starting classes during the second half of the summer, saying it will make them feel at home.
“It’s good to be able to provide a home away from home for the students (who) are coming up here for Summer B, their first time on campus, and making sure that they realize this is a really inclusive and diverse community that they’re walking in to,” Tanner said.
The lights will be turned on every night at about 9 p.m. until July 1. There will also be a ceremony that will be open to the UF community June 28 at 8:30 p.m.
Tanner said members of UF administration are expected to attend the ceremony, though who will speak has not yet been decided.
Rick Garcia, the external vice president of the Pride Student Union at UF, personally identifies as a gay Latino man in the queer community. Garcia came to take photos of the rainbow-colored tower Thursday not only for the student organization, but also for his own personal use.
“It goes without saying, but this was a terrible tragedy, and it warms my heart seeing the support that I’ve experienced personally from people that I know,” he said.
However, he said he thinks many people are still downplaying the role that race played in the Orlando attack.
“A lot of the voices that are coming out trying to comfort people and speak about this are Caucasian, or white people,” Garcia said. “While we appreciate the support, there isn’t a lot of visibility for people of color (during) this time.”
Despite the lack of visibility, Garcia said he’s focusing on the positivity that has come out of global support and camaraderie.
Keith Watson Events, an event design company, is providing the lighting for the tribute. He said there are a total of 32 LED lights, and 16 will be used each night. The lights have to be rotated out each day because they are battery-operated.
“We are very saddened by this incredibly horrible situation that has happened,” Watson said. “We’re honored that we have been chosen to help pay respect for those folks.”
UF Health employee Andrew Ragsdale, along with his wife, two children and the family dog, watched the debut of the rainbow lights. He said he’s delighted to see the university come out in support of the Orlando shooting victims and LGBT community.
“We’re here to learn that there’s many colors in the rainbow, there’s many colors in life,” Ragsdale said. “We need to learn to love. We need to act in love, and this is one of those times that I think we can come out and show our support.”