THONOTOSASSA, Fla. (FOX 13) - At the Daarus Salaam Mosque in Thonotosassa this afternoon, amidst the prayer and the mourning, came a message of unity.
Hundreds gathered at the mosque Sunday for a vigil to remember the fifty killed in the New Zealand Mosque attacks Friday. They were from all races, creeds and colors, something Rev. Russell Meyer says filled him with joy.
“Because it tells me what I believe is affirmed by people everywhere, even though they don’t come to my church,” Rev. Meyer said after he spoke at the vigil. “That everyone understands in our heart of hearts that this is unacceptable, that this is like killing myself.”
Tarek Sebahi, a 19-year-old who comes to this mosque with his family, says the killings hit too close to home.
“I felt for them, I was just like, what if that was my family?" Sebahi said. "That could have been me, you know? Because I do actively go to a mosque.”
Sebahi says when he first heard the news, he felt numb to it, given the large number of mass shootings in recent years. But after he watched the killer’s live stream video of the event, it changed everything.
“I was so used to seeing these numbers, but after seeing the video, I cried,” he said.
New Zealand authorities are racing to identify the dead so their families can bury them in accordance with Muslim tradition, which calls for a person to be buried as soon as possible after death – ideally within 24 hours.
Through the despair, Bilal Saleh, a member of the community, says there is hope within unity.
“We come together, and we understand where the other side is coming from, why they are angry,” Saleh said. “I do believe that ignorance is the enemy.”