Dave Dixon stood together with his gay brothers and sisters Wednesday night.
Together, they rallied and marched along Cooper River Park to honor victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting massacre in Florida.
The Westmont resident, a former Navy corpsman, came out in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis — a time when the LGBT community was not accepted.
"In the '80s we were segregated and we were called the reason why it all started," he remembered. "It was a turbulent time for gay people. We decided to pull together to help ourselves."
"Now I want to help the younger generation get through what we went through — live a life of honor and dignity."
“March for Love,” hosted by the Camden County Board of Freeholders, intended to spread a message of love and equality while showing solidarity for the 49 people murdered at Pulse, a prominent gay club in Orlando. The rally was the first event honoring the lives lost in the shooting Dixon was able to attend.
"My brothers and sisters were injured and I know what it’s like to be in the club that late at night, looking for acceptance and safety," Dixon added. "Gay clubs are places where we can be ourselves without fear or judgment. That’s been taken away from us."
"We’re still under attack. I am out here personally because I believe in the unity that is happening in this world."
Participants celebrated diversity at the event by wearing clothes with rainbow colors, holding signs and banners, and wearing personalized T-shirts.
Haddon Township resident Terry Bussard held a sign that resonated with many participants: "Love Never Dies."
Bussard made his sign to let the people who knew the victims who died that the entire world supports them.
"The attack was done to individuals but yet, many were affected," he said. “I don’t think there’s ever a way to control people. If that were possible, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s a choice to love, but I guess it’s a choice to hate too.”
March for Love T-shirts were sold at the event with proceeds benefiting the One Orlando fund created by the City of Orlando to help the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting and their families.
The march aligned with National Day of Action Against Gun Violence, a week after U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross joined fellow Democrats for a congressional sit-in to demand a vote on gun-control legislation, including a ban on the sale of firearms to people on the no-fly list.
“I hope to never have another moment of silence for Orlando but the fact of the matter is there’s going to be another Orlando," Norcross said at the rally. "We have the power to do something about it and we must. Keep that in your hearts and mind and we can make a difference."
Freeholder Jeffrey Nash said he will not only remember the victims of the Orlando shooting, but all victims of violence.
“We pray these horrific events can somehow bring us together and wake up the conscious of our country to enact common-sense laws before it is too late, as it is and was too late for the victims of Orlando.”
Aaron Potenza, director of Operations for Garden State Equality, New Jersey's largest LGBT organization, has spoken at a number of vigils honoring those lost in the Orlando shooting. He called the shooting a "heinous crime" and another "senseless act of gun violence."
“They were members of communities all too often demonized, dismissed and dehumanized. These were LGBT people who had to navigate a world that denied them a quality on the basis of who they loved, and how they understood and expressed their gender."
As Dixon marched with others to the Vietnam War Memorial to lay wreaths honoring the 49 victims, he couldn't help but speak about how the event would affect future generations.
"They’re going to have to live with this massacre and deal with it and unfortunately, you can’t protect against this. I don’t know how we’re going to stop it and I think they’re going to be more, not just in the gay world."
"A lot of this may push people back in the closets because people will be afraid to be themselves."