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Reeling from the worst mass shooting in American history, leaving 49 people dead and 53 more injured at an Orlando gay nightclub, local LGBT community members and allies have banded together to remain resilient in the face of adversity and to comfort one another through the sadness.

Terri Coughlin is a liaison for the Washington Heights Rainbow Association, which for the last 21 years has provided a community for LGBT members and allies within the Washington Heights neighborhood, located on Milwaukee's west side.

'We're all devastated by the news,' Coughlin said. 'It just follows along with all the hateful rhetoric going on in the country. We're anxiously hoping that, at some point, that stops.'

The weekend's events coincided with Pride festivals throughout the country, including PrideFest held at the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee. Members of the Washington Heights Rainbow Association ran a beer and wine booth at the celebration, which took on a rather somber atmosphere compared to years past, Coughlin said.

'We all stood together during the moment of silence that was held at 4 p.m. (Sunday),' she said of the association, which has more than 100 people on its mailing list.

'It was very somber because we've made some great strides on acceptance in the nation and this feels like a setback,' Coughlin said. 'Everyone is worried about themselves, friends and families. We're hoping there won't be additional attacks.'

Increased attendance

According to a news release from PrideFest, 2016 saw an official attendance of 33,438 guests over the three-day weekend, marking a 2 percent increase over last year's total attendance.

Early Sunday morning, PrideFest organizers responded to the Orlando shootings by saying there would be increased festival safety and security. The festival incorporated full metal detection, expanded Milwaukee Police Department presence, added security staff and provided bereavement services, according to the release.

In an effort to increase access to the festival, volunteers handed out more than 300 free admission tickets Sunday afternoon.

'Early Sunday morning, our visitors were expressing concern for their safety as well as our own,' Milwaukee Pride Inc. Executive Director Eric Heinrtiz said in a statement. 'By early afternoon, our visitors were expressing nothing but gratitude for increased security measures. We, as a community, reclaimed this weekend. Nothing could sway our resilience or resolve. Nothing could stop PrideFest Milwaukee.'

A vigil to honor the victims of the shootings in Orlando was scheduled for Monday evening at Milwaukee's city hall.

Coughlin said it's likely that some will pause in light of the attacks and choose to stay home from such events for fear of their safety.

'I think, for the most part, this is a call to action to stand taller,' she said, before adding: 'Stop the hate.'

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