South Floridians Remembering Pulse Nightclub Victims as Moments of Silence Held Across State on Shooting Anniversary

Rallies, remembrance ceremonies mark 1-year anniversary of massacre at gay nightclub

As people of all ages, races, religions and sexual orientations remember the tragic day one year ago inside the Pulse nightclub, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has proclaimed Monday as "Pulse Remembrance Day" across the state.

Scott has ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset, in addition to a moment of silence at 9 a.m.

Several of those who came out to honor the 49 victims dressed as angels to remember those who lost their life one year ago.

"The horrific terror attack at Pulse attempted to rip at the seams of our society, strike fear in our hearts and divide us. Yet, in the face of extreme adversity and loss, Floridians showed resiliency, bravery and love," Scott said in a statement.

"This was an attack on Orlando, our state, the Hispanic community and on the LGBTQ community. It left a solemn impact on our state that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.”

Monday marks a year to the date when gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured dozens more before he was shot and killed by police at the Orlando club.

Events are planned across the area Monday for the one year anniversary of the mass shooting.

In South Florida, hundreds of people rallying for equality in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Sunday took a moment to reflect on the 49 patrons killed during the massacre at the gay nightclub in the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history.

"This is just a minute portion of the South Florida clergy that is here today to represent all faith bases," said Rev. Jole Slotick, with the Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale.

"That is a signal to rest of the world to know that we have hatred within our country and we just got to work so hard to push it back," Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis said.

Prideline, the City of Miami and the Miami Heat will host a "Pulse Day of Remembrance" on Monday at the American Airlines Arena, paying tribute to the victims, their families, friends and the survivors. The massive free event will begin at 6 p.m. Monday.

"As a police department, this is something we would like everyone to know: that we stand by and strongly support our LGBTQ residents, allies and visitors," said Miami Police Department spokesperson Christopher Bess.

South Florida's prominent gay community, Wilton Manors, will also honor the Pulse shooting victims from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday at the Pride Center with a remembrance flag-hanging ceremony.

"We are taking gay pride month and asking those who believe in equality and against discrimination and bigotry that seem so pervasive in our country today to come together and know they have comrades-in-arms," Trantalis said.

The emotions are just as hard one year later for the Latino community, said Stephen Fallon, executive director of Latino Salud.

"For my staff and members of Latino Salud, one year later the emotions are still raw, and I think it's important for people to remember the killer targeted the Latino Night at the club. Ninety percent of the victims were Latino," Fallon said.

In Orlando, the names of the 49 victims were read out loud outside the club at 2:02 a.m., the moment Mateen began opening fire.

"I realize that gathering here in this place, at this hour, is beyond difficult," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told survivors, victims' families, club employees and local officials during the private service. "But I also know that the strength you've shown over the past year will carry you through today and in the future."

Later Monday morning, hundreds of people dropped off flowers, drawings and cards at a memorial near Pulse. Another midday service was held, followed by an evening gathering in the heart of downtown Orlando and a final, music-filled late-night service at the nightclub.

"It still hurts, it's still very raw," said Erin Anderson, a friend and former co-worker of Pulse victim Xavier Serrano Rosado.

Jeannine Williams used to live within walking distance of Pulse and was a frequent visitor. She had made plans to be there the night of the shooting but decided to go another night club.

"A year later I think the thing that is most important is this community and why I live here and why I'm so happy to live here," Williams said through tears. "The support we not only have from our city government, it's not fleeting support, it's not support on certain days. It's the way the community is. This is Orlando. This is why I just love living here."

At noon, church bells throughout the Orlando area rang 49 times.

Local leaders said Mateen's act of hate caused an outpouring of love from Orlando and the wider world.

"What a terrorist tries to do is divide us," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. "Isn't it interesting it had the opposite effect? It brought us together in unity and love."

Monday's services culminated several days of events aimed at turning the grim anniversary into something positive. A foot race was held over the weekend, and eight gay and lesbian students were awarded $4,900 toward their college studies by a local businessman. Local officials have declared the one-year mark as a day of "love and kindness," and they are encouraging residents to volunteer or perform acts of compassion.

An exhibit of artwork collected from memorial sites set up around Orlando after the massacre will be shown at the Orange County History Center. The club's owner, Barbara Poma, is developing plans to build a memorial at the Pulse site.

Mateen's wife, Noor Salman, is facing charges of aiding and abetting and obstruction in federal court. She has pleaded not guilty to helping her husband.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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