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Vigils held in Orlando, South Florida for Orlando massacre victims

Thousands send messages of love, unity

ORLANDO, Fla. – Thousands lit candles, bowed their heads, hugged and held hands  for those affected by Sunday’s massacre during a vigil held Monday night in Orlando.  

Every one of the 49 names of the people who died in the attack were read. The sound echoed off surrounding buildings.

Nearby, church bells rang 49 times.

"We cannot believe what happened," Imam Muhammad Musri, of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, said. "We cannot believe that someone who claims my peaceful faith has brought a massacre and atrocity to our city. We condemn this act of terrorism."

People of every faith, every sexuality, chose love over hate Monday night.

"We have to be strong for them," Sara Lopez, whose brother died in the attack, said.

The owners and employees of Pulse nightclub in Orlando promised to one day reopen.

"I have been in Orlando's basically ground zero," Commissioner Patty Sheehan, of the Orlando City Council, said. "I have seen blood. I have seen bullets.  I have seen mothers crying after they know their children have passed.  I have also seen the power of love."

In South Florida, vigils also took place.

More than 200 people came out to the intersection of Oakland Park Boulevard and Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale on Monday to show their support for the victims in Orlando’s massacre.

The theme of the demonstration was "love always wins," and holding true to that sentiment, demonstrators sent a message that while homophobia and hate are still out there, they will not cower in fear.

In Wilton Manors, dozens came together to share their outrage and their pain.

Many who attended said they'd been to Pulse in the past and now realized just how vulnerable they whas been.

Ricky Ayala, who used to work in the club, lost some of his former co-workers and friends in the massacre, including his roommate Anthony Laureano.

"I feel like I'm still in shock.  I don't want to believe it.  I still waiting for them to text me back and tell me they are OK," Ayala said. "I keep texting them.  I'm hoping that they're going to text back."