Orlando marks 1 year after Pulse with love, unity
ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Rain didn't deter thousands of people from showing up in downtown Orlando at a remembrance for the 49 victims killed during the gay nightclub massacre a year ago.
The "Remembering Our Angels" commemoration Monday evening was delayed by less than an hour because of showers. It was the third of four services scheduled over almost 24 hours to mark the one-year passing of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
People dressed as angels with white billowing wings took the stage as the names of the 49 were read at a commemoration attended by thousands of residents in downtown Orlando. City officials estimated that 15,000 people showed up for the memorial ceremony Monday evening at Lake Eola Park.
The owner of Orlando's Pulse nightclub says she misses the club. Barbara Poma said Monday during a midday service outside the nightclub that she is planning to open a memorial at the site of the club, which has been closed since the massacre. "I miss Pulse," she said.
For over a decade, Pulse served as a safe haven and place of fun for many LGBT community members. Poma says that people ask her what has changed in her life since the tragedy, and she says "everything."
"But I think I speak for all of us. We are all changed," she added. "I have experienced so much love, hope and inspiration the past year. I have seen hearts changed. I have seen people be kinder and I have seen the community join together."
Two mayors who were an integral part of the healing after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando also spoke during a memorial service.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs encouraged the city to continue healing and talked about how the tragedy won't define the city.
"After 12 months of healing, I find comfort in the fact that the most enduring images are not of chaos but of bravery and of courage, compassion and kindness," Mayor Dyer said.
Pulse remembrance events were held at area churches on Sunday, and earlier Monday morning, the name of each victim was read aloud at 2:02 a.m. That's the exact time, 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire on the crowd of clubgoers, during "Latin Night" at the club in the heart of downtown Orlando.
Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State during the attack and was eventually killed by police during a shootout after a three-hour standoff. His wife, Noor Salman, is facing charges of aiding and abetting and obstruction in federal court, and she has pleaded not guilty to helping her husband.
Throughout the day, hundreds of people have left flowers, cards and drawings at the Pulse site. Many people cried and strangers hugged each other during solemn moments. Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered flags around the state to be flown at half-staff, and at noon on Monday, church bells throughout the city rang 49 times.
President Trump remembered the 49 Pulse victims on Twitter, tweeting that he will never forget what happened.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida says the 49 patrons who were killed at the Pulse nightclub a year ago didn't die in vain. Nelson, and Florida's other U.S. senator, Republican Marco Rubio, on Monday introduced a resolution honoring the memory of the victims. Nelson spoke about the Pulse massacre on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Monday.
Earlier in the day, he attended a service at the nightclub in Orlando before flying back to Washington. Nelson hailed the first-responders who rescued patrons from the club and offered support for victims' families.
Orlando United Day
While broken by the devastating loss of so many, Orlando stood united in the face of adversity, as citizens joined first responders and officials in aiding the surviving victims. Dozens were saved thanks to the quick actions of those first responders and medical professionals.
In a matter of hours following the shooting, vigils and memorials arose in every corner of town, as people paid their respects. Even grocery stores like Publix and restaurants like 4Rivers held events to honor the fallen souls. One of the most remarkable moments was the Lake Eola vigil, which was attended by close to 50,000 people.
It did not take long for the rest of the world to follow, as memorials and vigils popped up around the globe -- Hollywood held a benefit for the Pulse victims; France's Eiffel Tower was lit up like a rainbow; and the hashtags #LoveWins and #OrlandoStrong trended internationally.
Now, one year later, Orlando stands stronger and more united than ever. But the lives lost, families affected, and people heartbroken will never be forgotten.
Orlando United Day is an opportunity to join with others in "acts of love and kindness," to continue the unity that followed the tragedy. Orlando United Day events are listed here.