ORLANDO, Fla. – Eight survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings were introduced Friday night at a community vigil honoring the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre.
The vigil was held by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at the plaza in front of the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts.
Hundreds gathered dressed in white, lighting candles, to hear music of inspiration and hope.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer surprised everyone when he introduced the survivors.
"It's so symbolic that they would come down and offer love and support," Dyer told News 6. "It's so tremendous that they're down here."
"It was an easy decision to make to come down," said Dave Fortier.
Fortier says he suffered hearing loss and has shrapnel in his leg from one of the bombs going off during the marathon.
"To be able to share some of the stories and what they're going to be facing over the course of the next months or years -- we're here for them like others were here for us," he said.
"Every time I talk about it I get chills," said LeeAnn Yanni.
Yanni also suffered hearing loss and a leg injury from the bombings.
She told News 6 she moved to Orlando two years ago, and she has now watched both cities come together in the darkest of times.
"From day one when people started to share their stories and you kind of thing back, 'where was I at that time?'" she said. "You think that things aren't going to ever get back to normal, but it's everybody's new normal."
Boston bombing survivors meet with Pulse survivors
Ten survivors, along with their service dogs, visited patients in their hospital rooms Saturday at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Orlando Health said the survivors of the Boston bombing felt that meeting with survivors was a critical part of their mission to pay it forward.
The visit to Orlando Health was facilitated by Dyer's office.
Orlando Health said Boston bombing survivor Celeste Corcoran and her daughter, Sydney, along with Dave Fortier, and their service dogs Sebastian, Koda and Zealand, met with Pulse survivor Angel Colon.
"There's post-traumatic stress, and it helps to talk with someone who has been through similar situations," Celeste Corcoran said.
"The folks who came and visited with us, we are still in contact with," Fortier said. "It feels good to be able to talk to them, because it's something similar, you have a great network here."
"People who try and spread hate, it does the exact opposite," Celeste Corcoran said. "It brings together strangers and we are more tolerant of people. What happened was horrific and should never have happened, but in their memory we choose to be nice to someone else, to pay it forward."
"You are Orlando Strong. We are Boston Strong. We are family now," Sydney Corcoran told Angel.
Orlando Health said Boston survivors Eliza Gedney and Michelle L'Heureux met with Pulse survivor Rodney Sumter. They shared with him that they all ran the Boston Marathon together this year in solidarity.
Gedney and L'Heureux invited Sumter to Boston for the marathon next April, to which Sumter said, "I want to be there."
The two groups of survivors spent Saturday morning getting to know one another, sharing their experiences and exchanging contact information so they could connect again, Orlando Health said.