Family, friends and survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre gathered outside of the now shuttered club early Monday morning to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the June 12 mass shooting.
Gatherers, many dressed in black and rainbow colors, honored the lives of the 49 victims of the massacre with a candlelight vigil. At 2:02 AM, the exact time the shooting began, the names of each of the deceased were read aloud and a small bell was tolled.
“It feels like it was yesterday,” Orlando resident Danny Weaver said.
Weaver, who lost two friends in the attack, says he comes by the club once a week to pay tribute to the dead.
“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 remarked. “I give them a hug and send them on their way. That’s all I can do.”
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer took to Twitter in remembrance of the day, writing, “Today is six months since the Pulse tragedy. I am so proud that we haven’t been defined by hate. We’ve been defined by love and compassion.”
Today is six months since the Pulse tragedy. I am so proud that we haven't been defined by hate. We've been defined by love and compassion.
— Mayor Buddy Dyer (@orlandomayor) December 12, 2016
The Orlando Police Department tweeted a similar message: “Love defeats hate. Light conquers darkness.”
— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) December 12, 2016
Pulse owner Barbara Poma said in a statement that she would soon be moving 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,” she continued, “I am committed to rebuilding Pulse Nightclub in a new location and to creating another place where members of the LGBTQ community can again have a place where they can be themselves.”
She concluded: “That’s what Pulse was and shall be again.”