Heartland Pridefest shows strength after Orlando attack

Posted at 11:02 PM, Jun 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-27 12:19:31-04

People marched with signs, bright flags and love, all while displaying their strength after Orlando's attack at a gay club. 

"It's such an immense uplifting event to know that fear can't put you down enough to make you silent," says Hannah Thomsen. 

Organizers encouraged the LGBTQ community to attend and promised extra security to keep everyone safe. 

"Not only were we wanting to make sure that we had extra security, but we did get calls from OPD and Frontline Security and Stinson Park - just to make sure that all of that was taken care of and that everybody stayed safe," sayd Christina Arellano, president of Heartland Pride. 

"They want you to feel welcome because this is supposed to be the safest place on Earth for people like me and like my friends," says Thomsen. 

David Keaton, attended the festival with his fiancé. Keaton, whose from Orlando, was born at Orlando Regional Medical Center, the same hospital most of the victims were taken to after the Orlando shooting.

"My first thought the next morning and the first thing my fiancé asked me was how many friends of yours do you think were in that nightclub? That feeling is - I just can't even describe the feeling. It was  horrible, it was heartbreaking," says Keaton.

The festival made sure they honored the Orlando attack victims. 

"Each year we display about sixty-five flags. But when we came to set up yesterday morning, somehow, some way, some reason - there were only 49 flags," says Arellano.

The same number of victims from the nightclub shooting. 

One of the volunteers made cards with the name and age of each victim. The cards were hung throughout the park on every single flag pole.

"That is a reminder every time we walk by that we really are Orlando," says Arellano. "That could've been us. Those are our brothers and sisters. Those are our family. Those are people we'll never forget."

Arellano says this has been the largest turnout she's ever seen in Omaha. She think it's partly because the community wants to display love and show that they will not live in fear, despite the Orlando attack tragedy.