So overcome with emotion was she that Kourtney Baltazar could barely speak between her deepening sobs.
But when her words failed her, her hands did not, holding steadily to a handwritten message of remembrance and to a rain-warped photo of her friend Kimberly Morris.
“Those of us who knew her called her K.J.,” Baltazar said.
Morris, a former Hawaii resident who had recently moved to Florida to help take care of her mother and grandmother, was one of 50 people killed in today’s mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Morris, a former collegiate basketball player, worked at the club as a bouncer.
Late this afternoon, Baltazar emerged from a crowd of more than 100 people who had gathered at Honolulu Hale to mourn the victims of the shooting. Taking an open microphone, she did her best to make sure each person heard Morris’ name and a bit of her story.
Baltazar and her co-workers at Jaco Rehab knew Morris through Morris’ then-girlfriend, Starr Shelton, who also worked at the center.
Today the group of friends attended the memorial together, each cradling a small votive as a light drizzle strengthened to rain.
“She was the most loving person,” Baltazar said. “She never had a bad thing to say about anyone. If you came to her after a bad day, she’d find some way to cheer you up.”
The event was organized by the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i along with Rainbow Family 808 and MoveOn.org — Honolulu Council. A candlelight vigil organized by LGBT Hawaii was also held today at Kapiolani Park.
Calls for stricter gun laws, including a national ban on assault weapons, were issued loudly and repeatedly at the Honolulu Hale event.
LGBT Caucus Chairman Michael Golojuch Jr. also cautioned mourners to resist the impulse to blame Muslims as a group for the actions of a radical minority.
“We cannot allow one minority to be pitted against another minority for the betterment of the (National Rifle Association),” he said.
Response to news of the shootings came swiftly today.
“This was a reprehensible act of terror and hate, which is repugnant to the ideals of equality and inclusiveness that are the foundation of our society,” said Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. “Our heartfelt thoughts go out to the victims and families affected by this horrific tragedy.”
Gov. David Ige called the incident “yet another horrific instance of man’s inhumanity to man, triggered by the fear of differences.”
“Let us reject fear and hostility,” Ige said in a new release. “Let us embrace diversity. Let us affirm life. Hawaii has some of the toughest laws regulating gun ownership in the nation. This presumed act of terror is a reminder that we cannot become complacent. We must do all that we can to ensure the public’s safety.”
Mayor Kirk Caldwell said, “Like the rest of the country, I am in shock at what took place in Orlando, and my heart breaks for the victims of this horrific act of violence. There’s no room in our civil society for hatred against a particular group of people like we saw at the Pulse nightclub. We must all stand together against those that seek to change the very fabric of our nation because they disagree with our principles of liberty and freedom.”
LGBT Hawaii organizers called for greater security measures in light of the incident.
“Implementing appropriate security cannot wait,” said LGBT Hawaii co-founder Juergen Steinmetz. “We must realize this here at home, in Hawaii and nationally. We must begin to implement security measures everywhere that should include protecting our hotels, our shopping malls and our entertainment facilities — anywhere crowds routinely gather.”