At 2 a.m. on Sunday I was out with friends in the East Village in New York city. It was a hot and sticky night, hard to escape the humidity and heat no matter where we went. We ducked into a bar whose name didn’t matter because the music sounded good and we wanted to dance.

Our favorite songs came on, we had cold beers in our hands, and immediately everything else in our lives disappeared. Then I glanced at my phone and saw the frenzy of news alerts. The world had changed yet again. In the end, 49 men and women at an Orlando gay club would lose their lives to an act of terror in a place where they came to celebrate.

I can still remember the first time I went to a gay club. I was 18 and a freshman in college when I met my soon to be best friend John in an 8 a.m. statistics class. By Thursday of the next week, we were off to college night at Apex, a popular bastion of Washington, D.C.’s gay scene.

We’ve heard words like refuge and safe haven during recent days and that’s exactly how I felt at Apex. While not gay myself, I recognized the feeling of safety my friend John felt there. It was a different kind of energy, loud and sharp as a tack but it provided a welcoming net. I let down whatever defenses I might usually bring to a dance club as a woman as we laughed uncontrollably and made sure that others around us knew we meant business on the dance floor. Tomorrow didn’t matter because we were having too much fun.

It was a feeling I carried with me long after college, into the sweaty nights at the Lampost and the Ritz or this week into that no name bar on Avenue A.

By Monday after the shooting, a fuller picture began to form and the anger, heartbreak and confusion that came along with it. Previous tragedies had taught me strength in numbers is the only way to heal so I headed to the Stonewall Inn for a vigil.

I joined thousands of New Yorkers outside the West Village gay bar, the site of a series of riots in 1969 in response to a police raid. It is believed to be the birthplace of the modern LGBT movement. I could feel tears start to well up as I exited the subway on Christopher street. I was struck by the quiet and how clearly I could hear the wind moving through the trees even though there were thousands of people there.

But the quiet soon broke as we cheered in solidarity and applauded after a rendition of Somewhere from West Side Story. The crowd demanded the organizers read the victims names aloud, we demanded gun control reform and “not one more.”

The event reminded me why I live in places like New York or the Vineyard where acceptance is prioritized. But there is still so much more work to be done everywhere.

I left the scene that night feeling hopeful that perhaps a new chapter of a movement had been born. A school full of children, a theatre full of moviegoers, a nightclub full of revelers — it could have been any of us, the delicacy of humanity underscored.

At times like this it is hard to find the right words to express the tug inside or how to release it. I went home that night after working a late shift and put some music on. Sometimes the only answer is dancing.