Orlando (Florida): At 2:02 a.m. Monday, the names of 49 people killed in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history were read out loud outside the Pulse nightclub, marking the exact time a year ago when a gunman started firing during “Latin Night” at the gay club.
“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.”
The service began what would be almost 24 hours of observations to remember the victims and the dozens of Pulse patrons who were wounded when Omar Mateen opened fire and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. He was eventually killed by police after a three-hour standoff on June 12, 2016.
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 were set to ring 49 times. Gov. Rick Scott ordered U.S. flags around Florida to be flown at half-staff and a giant rainbow flag would be unveiled at the Orange County government building.