South Florida joined hands with Orlando residents to remember those who lost their lives in the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Saturday marked the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, which at the time was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Saturday brought a steady stream of people who came to what is now a memorial to remember the victims. They came with memories of loves lost too soon.
"Something like this, it’s tragic, no matter what community its part of," said Kelly McDonald, who attended the memorial. "I did work here for a temporary time. I have plenty of friends that are part of the community."
"Coming out to show my respects.”
Another attendee, Kevin Clutch said, “I just think it’s particularly sad that something of that nature could ever happen in the first place in such a loving community.”
Brian Alvear and his mother thanked those who turned out for their support in honor of his sibling, who was killed that night.
At 2 a.m. on June 12, 2016, desperate calls started coming to Orlando Police about a gunman inside the Pulse Nightclub. The gunman, Omar Mateen, fired with multiple weapons and over 100 people were shot before he was finally killed by officers three hours later.
In the 5 years since tragedy, the nightclub has transformed into a memorial where family, friends, co-workers and anyone who wanted to pay their respects could come to learn about those who died and the legacy they left for a community to follow.
"I think its hate and we have to continue in the name of Jesus and help each other,” Georgina Vido, who went to the memorial, said.
There have been a series of programs at churches, community centers, and other venues to reach out and support the LGBTQ+ community throughout the week in Orlando. There have also been programs looking back at the lives lost.
“We just hope that nothing like that ever happens again," Clutch said.
"Five years on, its just crazy. 49 people were lost.”
Orlando came to a stop, as each of the 49 victims was honored Saturday, when church bells tolled 49 times.
“I’d like to hope we are in a better place than five years ago," McDonald said. "But we still have a long way to go unfortunately."
"We can’t just pretend like everything’s better, but I do feel like people are starting to recognize more, like, there is a problem that’s going on."
Many of the programs on Saturday were held online so that the many who were not able to make their way to Orlando were still able to show their support as this community moves forward.