Christina Grimmie Vigil: Brother Delivers Emotional Speech for Orlando Victims
"About four miles away from where we were staying, there was a huge tragedy to Orlando, to the U.S. to the LGBT community and to the whole world…I have no words. All of those people that died and are suffering. My heart goes out."
Christina Grimmie’s brother, Marcus, was overcome with emotion as hundreds of mourners gathered at a candlelight vigil honoring her memory in Evesham, New Jersey, Monday night.
"Christina was awesome…. She loved this town, she loved this state, she loved singing, she loved the Lord and she loved me, and she was just my baby sister," he said.
Several speakers — including Mayor Robert Brown, close friends and pastors — shared remembrances of The Voice contestant’s love of her family, friends and faith at the half-hour vigil, which took place at the Marlton Memorial Sports Complex. Many wore “Team Grimmie” shirts designed just for the event, and there were so many people in attendance there weren’t enough candles.
As he spoke of his sister, Marcus took a moment to offer condolences to the families of the victims of the massacre at Pulse nightclub, which took the lives of 49 and wounded another 53. Monday night also saw vigils being held across the country for the victims in the Orlando attack.
"About four miles away from where we were staying, there was a huge tragedy to Orlando, to the U.S. to the LGBT community and to the whole world,” he said. “I mean, 50 people dead, who knows who is injured. And I come home to this…I have no words. All of those people that died and are suffering. My heart goes out."
He expressed gratitude to Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine, who coached Grimmie while she competed on the third season of The Voice, for offering to pay for his sister’s funeral, and to the band Twenty One Pilots and singer Selena Gomez for paying tribute to her in concert.
He said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from their hometown and the entertainment community, while the victims of the mass shooting do not have similar support systems.
“These people didn't have that, and we are blessed to,” he said. “She's in a better place. Thank you to everyone once again. I wish I could elaborate more, you guys didn't know her like I did, so thank you. This is awesome."
In addition to Marcus’ speech, best friends Pete Innaurato, Lauren Longo and Sarah Luebkemann shared memories of Grimmie, whom they said put her “family, friends, and the Lord” ahead of everything else. They spoke of how much she loved entertaining senior citizens and gathered a group to go Christmas caroling to spread cheer. One woman loved her voice so much, she asked Grimmie to sing Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love With You" — and practically invited the teens to stay all night at her house.
Most poignant was a story told by Longo and Luebkemann as they spoke of visiting their friend during Hometown Week on The Voice. Grimmie performed “Some Nights” by the band fun. but had originally planned to do “This Is Home” by Switchfoot.
The song, which Luebkemann said was a special one that had a lot of meaning for the trio, is especially meaningful now, she said, as she read the lyrics: “This is home/now I’m finally where I belong/where I belong/yeah, this is home/I’ve been searching for a place of my own/now I’ve found it/maybe this is home.”
After the speeches, mourners bowed their heads as a bagpiper solemnly performed “Amazing Grace.” The lights were switched off on the field and the crowd stood in silence as the candles illuminated the night in tribute.
Afterward, mourners embraced in tears, leaving notes and flowers at the foot of two enlarged photos of the 22-year-old on the field.
This story originally appeared on Billboard.com.