In the wake of the shooting, a candlelight vigil was held at the scene of the shooting on Salem Ave. Hundreds of people, including the mayor, city council members, civic leaders and ordinary citizens turned out at in a show of support for our community in a way that had never been seen before and hasn't been seen since. Speaker after speaker proclaimed that Roanoke was a tolerant and welcoming place and that the actions of Ronald Gay were an isolated incident by a mentally ill outsider. I remember someone being quoted in the press saying "Roanoke's not like this."
Over a thousand people, including Paul and I, attended Danny Overstreet's funeral service. Executives from Verizon, where Danny and Paul both worked, flew in to attend the service and gave employees the afternoon off so they could say a final farewell to their friend and coworker. There was talk at the time that Fred Phelps and his band of wackos from Westboro Baptist were planning to protest the service, but they were no shows.
The shooting drew national and international attention. Ted Koppel of ABC's "Nightline" came to Roanoke and held a televised town hall meeting at the Jefferson Center to talk about what this event meant to the people of this small mountain community. Religious leaders from miles around lined up to take their turn at the podium to condemn homosexuality. I remember watching them thumb through their bibles looking for just the right passage that would add just the right amount of salt to our community's wounds and thinking, "Roanoke's not like this? Yeah, right."
|Danny Overstreet was killed at the Backstreet Cafe.|
Ten years later, somebody else is doing something and asking you to get off your ass and do something too.
There is a candlelight memorial planned to remember Danny and his friends, many of whom are no longer with us. The gathering will take place in front of the Backstreet Cafe at 356 Salem Ave, in Roanoke. Attendees should begin assembling at 9:30 pm. The service will begin at 9:50. This event is being organized by Frank House of Roanoke Equality, Rev. Joe Cobb of MCC of the Blue Ridge and The Drop-in Center.
I encourage you all to plan on attending this event. Visit the event page on Facebook for more information. The time for change is long past. Let's not waste another second allowing our leaders -- and the bigots that we allowed to be elected -- to violate our rights. I'll be there. I hope you will be too.