49 Pulse victims remembered in Orlando 6 months after massacre

By Amy Viteri - Investigative Reporter, Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. - Family members, friends and survivors of the Orlando nightclub massacre stood outside Pulse early Monday, where candles were lit behind stars with the names of each of the 49 patrons who were killed in June.

Gatherers hugged one another outside the shuttered gay club to mark the six-month anniversary of the massacre.

Many wore black and others wore rainbow-colored "Orlando United" T-shirts and ball caps.

At 2:02 a.m., the exact time that gunman Omar Mateen started shooting inside the club, they read the names of each of the patrons who were killed in the shooting, which lasted about three hours.

Dozens of other patrons were seriously injured in the June 12 massacre, the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history.

"It feels like it was yesterday," Orlando resident Danny Weaver said.

Weaver lost two friends in the shooting. He said he was supposed to be at Pulse that night as well, but ended up staying in. He said he comes by the club once a week to honor his friends.

"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."

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer took to Twitter Monday in remembrance of the Pulse shooting, saying "I am so proud that we haven't been defined by hate.We've been defined by love and compassion."

Two other services for the Pulse victims were planned in Orlando later in the day, including a memorial ceremony that will be open to the public.

The Rev. Jonathan Smith, of Redeemer Anglican Church of Orlando, led a prayer service outside the club Monday afternoon.

"To show them that we're praying for them, that we haven't forgotten them and they're still very much a part of our community," Smith said.

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."

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