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Roanoke church hosts remembrance service for victims of Orlando shooting

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Community members are coming together in solidarity to remember the lives lost.

One of those is Michael Morris, who works at Backstreet Café Roanoke.

Seven people were shot there and one was killed back in 1999 in a hate crime.

He says just like then, he is standing up with hundreds of others to fight that violence with compassion.

The Metropolitan Community Church brought hundreds together Tuesday night in prayer for the 49 lives lost in Sunday's mass shooting.

Morris, experienced that fear first-hand.

"You can't get a hold of nobody. All your friends that you did know, are they, were they there? And you're wondering, you think about the families that do lose someone and you just feel helpless and you feel lost," said Morris.

Now, he and hundreds of others are spreading a message of understanding.

"There are a lot of people who want to be united, and who want to be a force for love in this country, and in this City, and I think that's really important," said Pastor Kathy Carpenter, who helped organize Tuesday's service.

She says it's Roanoke's small way of reaching out across the country to Orlando.

"When their pain is great, they can remember. They can remember that there are lots of people who love them and that they're not alone," said Carpenter.

Morris says the service Tuesday has inspired him and his co-workers at Backstreet to organize a fundraiser concert for the victim's families.

"Last time we did 15 hundred dollars. We're looking to top that," said Morris.

Morris says he knows that as the crowd watched 49 candles being lit for the victims, others would be inspired to take action as well.

"We want to send Orlando all our love, so that's what we're going to do," said Morris.

Morris says Backstreet is tentatively planning that fundraiser for Saturday, July 9th, with all proceeds going to the victims' families.

There will also be another vigil hosted by Roanoke Pride in Elmwood Park Wednesday night.