A year on, victims of Florida club
shooting honored at pre-dawn ceremony
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[June 12, 2017]
By Christopher Boyd
ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - The names of the
49 people killed in a Florida nightclub last June were read aloud early
on Monday in a pre-dawn remembrance marking the exact moment a year
earlier when a gunman transformed a dance party into a massacre.
The private gathering at Orlando's Pulse nightclub at 2:02 a.m. (0602
GMT) was the first in a series of events at which victims' names will be
memorialized with performances, prayers and candlelight vigils across
the country on "Orlando United Day."
On the first anniversary of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S.
history, officials asked Americans to join in acts of "love and
kindness" to honor victims of the three-hour June 12 rampage at the
now-shuttered gay club, including survivors still reeling from emotional
and physical wounds.
"Following the Pulse tragedy, we showed the world that Orlando would not
be defined by the act of a hate-filled killer, but instead defined by
our response of love, compassion and unity," Mayor Buddy Dyer wrote in a
Hundreds gathered outside the club late Sunday and early Monday,
including scores of people dressed in white with angels wings and
carrying lanterns. The "angels" first appeared in the wake of the
tragedy to protect and support family and friends of the victims.
"We will make sure the world is a better place because of our 49
angels," WKMG-TV quoted Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs as saying at
the service before a performer sang "Over the Rainbow" to close the
service as many on hand sobbed.
"Everybody's really come together," Matt Heavey, of Orlando, told WKMG.
"We kind of embraced differences," he said. "We've embraced diversity
that makes this city really go forward."
Many who came to pay respects said they were there for the first time
since the shooting, with the tragedy still too raw.
The gunman, Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire shortly after the last call for
drinks on the club's popular Latin night. He gunned down patrons on the
dance floor and sprayed bullets at others cowering in bathroom stalls.
[to top of second column]
A sign in the parking lot of Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida,
featuring a handwritten note honoring the 49 people who were killed
one year ago during the mass shooting, in Orlando, Florida, U.S. on
April 25, 2017. Photo taken April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Letitia Stein
Holding hostages during his standoff with police, Mateen claimed
allegiance to a leader of the Islamic State militant group before he
was killed in an exchange of gunfire with authorities.
His widow, Noor Salman, was arrested in January on federal charges
of aiding and abetting Mateen's attempt to provide material support
to a terrorist organization, and lying to authorities investigating
the massacre. She was not present for the attack and has pleaded not
Along with the events in Orlando, vigils and rallies were planned
across the United States in a show of solidarity with victims of the
attack, which authorities called a hateful act against lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
On social media, supporters sought to call attention to their legacy
with a campaign using the tag #HonorThemWithAction.
The Center, an LGBT advocacy group in Orlando, asked supporters to
post photos of their events so survivors and the relatives of
victims could see they had not been forgotten.
"A big part of the healing process is to see, 'I am not alone in
this'," said Terry DeCarlo, its executive director.
(Writing by Letitia Stein, additional reporting by Chris Michaud in
New York; Editing by Frank McGurty, Dan Grebler ande Paul Tait)
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