Relatives, friends and survivors of the Orlando nightclub massacre held a ceremony outside Pulse nightclub to mark the six-month anniversary on Monday of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Gatherers, many who wore black and others wore rainbow-colored “Orlando United” T-shirts, hugged one another outside the now shuttered gay club.
At 2:02 a.m., the exact time gunman Omar Mateen started shooting inside the club, a moment of silence was held.
Candles were also lit behind stars with the names of each of the 49 patrons who were killed. Each name was read aloud at the early-morning remembrance which was closed to the public and media.
Dozens of other patrons were seriously injured in the horrific June 12 massacre.
“Time really does fly,” said Orlando Torres, one of the Pulse survivors who hid in a bathroom when the shooting began. “It was very somber and very touching.”
“It feels like it was yesterday,” said Orlando resident Danny Weaver, who lost two friends in the shooting. Weaver said he was supposed to be at Pulse that night but ended up staying in.
“I try to talk to people and say, ‘You know, it’s going to be OK. Orlando’s strong. We’re going to get through this. We’re going to make it better,'” Weaver said. “(I) give them a hug and send them on their way. That’s all I can do.”
“This morning was very emotional. To the beautiful 49 we will never forget and continue to keep your pulse,” the official Pulse Twitter account read Monday.
“I am so proud that we haven’t been defined by hate,” wrote Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer on Twitter. “We’ve been defined by love and compassion.”
Two other services were planned in Orlando for the Pulse victims later in the day.
Pulse owner Barbara Poma said in a statement that she will soon move forward “with a community-driven effort to determine and design a proper memorial that serves as a sanctuary for healing and all that Pulse represented to so many people and families.”
“And while there is no timeline, I am committed to rebuilding Pulse Nightclub in a new location and create another place where members of the LGBTQ community can again have a place where they can be themselves,” Poma said. “That’s what Pulse was and shall be again.”