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Debbie Paynic, Alton Police Chief Jason “Jake” Simmons, Alton Mayor Brant Walker and Bubby and Sissy’s owner Mike Paynic during the vigil. Police patrols were stepped up in the area following the Florida shootings to ensure safety.
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Bubby and Sissy’s bar manager Jason Brooks lit tea candles throughout the entire back patio area in honor of the shooting victims.
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Jackie Spiker of Alton holds a candle during the vigil organized at Bubby and Sissy’s bar to recognize the dead and wounded from the shootings early Sunday morning at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
ALTON | When Jackie Spiker of Alton heard about a vigil being held Sunday evening at Bubby and Sissy’s, she knew what she needed to do.
“I needed to be with people that could relate to what I was feeling,” Spiker said. “This was a devastating blow to our community.”
Just after 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, a gunman armed with an assault rifle and handgun entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where a theme night saw more than 300 people in the club. By around 2:10 a.m., police were on the scene and a hostage standoff occurred, during which the gunman, now identified by police as Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Fla., called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS.
At 5 a.m., a SWAT team entered the club, freeing 30 people and killing the gunman.
President Obama called the incident an act of “terror” and “hate.” Sunday evening, people across the nation gathered at bars, clubs and other public places to hold candlelight vigils for the victims and their families and show unification among the LGBTQ community.
Mike “Bubby” Paynic and his sister, Debbie “Sissy” Paynic organized a public event on the back patio of the Bubby and Sissy’s bar at 602 Belle Street to recognize the shootings and allow those in the community to share support and encouragement. Rainbow flags were given out, and live music played softly.
Alton Mayor Brant Walker and Alton Police Chief Jason “Jake” Simmons spoke at the event. At the mayor’s request, patrols were increased throughout the area to ensure safety.
“Regardless of the motivation, this was a terror attack, a hate crime, and an act of cowardice,” Walker said.
The bar's manager, Jason Brooks, helped everything to come together and did much of the leg work. He credits Spiker for initiating the idea for the vigil, and the mayor and police chief for making it a priority.
"I know we can handle our own, but it was good to see them there," he said. "That goes a long way-more than they realize, I think."
For Brooks, it just came down to the fact "people wanted a place to go and we wanted to give them that place."
"It saddens me that everyone is taking this and jumping to the gun control issue," he said. "I think it starts with love and respect for one another. When that happens, everything else falls into place.
"It was very cool that there were parents there with their kids, both gay and straight. The fact it became a family thing and they wanted to show their kids what is right means that there is still hope."
People lined the back patio of the bar, holding candles and memorializing the dozens of people killed and injured in the Orlando attack. The names of the six known victims at the time were read aloud, with a moment of silence for each.
As someone who has seen the battles regarding equal rights, Spiker said there was a loss of innocence with the shootings.
“I remember what it was like to have to hide your affection, and those four walls of a bar was the only place we felt secure and safe,” Spiker said. “I think many young people don’t realize what it was like back then, and with this tragedy, they have had that freedom taken away from them a little bit.”
For Spiker, this was an opportunity to show support and lend a local voice.
“I needed to be there; you have to be willing to stand up for what’s right and do what you can for change.”
As of Monday morning, 49 people were confirmed dead and more than 40 seriously injured during what has become the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.