ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando city leaders made it clear Monday, one year after the terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub: Hate is not welcome in the City Beautiful.
Thousands are expected to attend memorial events for Orlando United Day in honor of the 49 killed and more than 50 others injured at the gay nightclub on June 12 last year.
Orlando police Chief John Mina posted a video early Monday after attending the private vigil held at the nightclub for family and friends of the victims and shooting survivors.
"We will always bear the scars of the Pulse tragedy and grieve for those whose lives were cut short," Mina said. "While painful, those scars are a reminder that hate and darkness could not defeat us."
"This community has opened its arms and heart to the law enforcement officers who ran toward danger, saving many lives, and for that, we are so grateful," Mina continued.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who also attended the ceremony at 2:02 a.m. when the first shots were fired last year, also posted a video statement with a strong theme of unity.
— Mayor Buddy Dyer (@orlandomayor) June 12, 2017
"We should all be proud of the way that we responded to that hateful act," Dyer said. "We showed and continued to show the world what love, compassion and unity look like."
The shooting carried out by Omar Mateen, who pledged his support to the Islamic State terrorist group, claimed the lives of many members of the LGBT and Latin communities at a place many called a "safe space" before the attack.
"The tragedy at Pulse deeply impacted our LGBTQ, LatinX and other communities of color and our entire city," Dyer said, using the gender-neutral description of Latino and Latina.
Both Orlando city leaders said they are proud to lead a community that responded with unity and strength in the face of unspeakable hate.
"I'm so proud that we are Orlando United," Dyer said.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings released an audio message that was sent to deputies and overnight personnel with the department.
“At 2:03 a.m. one year ago, the calls for help first came in. Today, in memory at 2:03 a.m., our agency recognized the 49 victims and their families with 49 seconds of silence across all OCSO radio channels," he said.
More than 400 students, faculty and staff at Orange County Public Schools performed Beautiful City from the musical Godspell in remembrance of the tragedy. The video was posted to social media Monday morning.
“We can build a beautiful city, a city of angels,” students and faculty wearing brightly colored T-shirts sang.
“Our thoughts and our prayers go out to all those impacted and especially to our LGBTQ community,” a student said before the music began.