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'Hate never solves anything:' Pulse survivors react to Salman's not guilty verdict

'This verdict cannot and will not divide us,' Pulse owner Barbara Poma says

ORLANDO, Fla. – As the community reacted to the not guilty verdict in the trial of the Pulse nightclub gunman's widow Friday morning, so did the men and women who survived the attack and the families of those victims who died.

Defense attorneys and the family of Noor Salman agreed that her being found not guilty of aiding and abetting her husband's attack at the club on June 12, 2016 did not diminish the experience of the 49 people killed, their families and the dozens of others who survived with life-altering injuries.

[READ: Jury finds Noor Salman not guilty]

Those survivors and the families of victims had mixed reactions when the verdict was read on Friday, bringing to an end a federal trial that lasted several weeks. Some thought federal prosecutors didn't have the evidence to prove Salman helped Omar Mateen plan and execute the attack and others were frustrated that no one will be held accountable for the innocent lives that were taken in the mass shooting.

Still, the message was clear that the community is still continuing to heal nearly two years after the attack.

Groups of people in support of shooting survivors and victims' families came to the site of the mass shooting after not guilty verdict came down.

"Through it all I don't wish bad on anyone. Hate never solves anything," survivor India Godman said standing in the lot across from Pulse. "The anger at this moment ... Do we want to wish the worst on this woman? Absolutely, but that's not who I am."

Godman and her son, Chris West, both survived the shooting on June 12, 2016. Godman and Passion Suarez, another survivor, came to the former Pulse nightclub site, which is currently under construction and will be opened up as a permanent memorial to the 49 victims.

Landscapers and construction workers continued moving plants and working as survivors and supporters gathered in front of the club, several carrying signs that read "We will not let hate win."

"The community behind our tragedy came together as one, has opened their doors, has opened their minds, their doors up, just not looking at us as the LGBT community," Godman said.

Godman, who with other survivors started a first responders unit for shooting survivors, said she and others who were in the club still have many unanswered questions, even with new details that came about through Salman's trial.

Godman said she absolutely disagreed with the jurors' decision, but more than anything she wants answers.

"Please hear us out," she said.

Luis morales and his partner Irving used to dance and meet friends at Pulse nightclub. They were both there a week before the shooting and lost five friends. They both came out carrying signs of support for the victims' families after Salman was acquitted in the Middle District of Florida federal courthouse, less than two miles from the scene of the shooting.

"We feel that it’s a slap in the face to the family and the victims," Morales said of the verdict. "Although she ws found not guilty she is in no way shape or form innocent, but again,I'm not the jury, the judge or the prosecutor. I'm just here to support the family."

People continued to stop by Friday afternoon and sign a banner with messages of love and support hung on the fence around the Pulse building.

[READ: Salman family apologizes to Pulse victims after not guilty verdict]

Below is a list of unedited statements and reactions provided to the media:

onePulse Foundation, Pulse owner Barbara Poma

"I respect the criminal justice process, and we all have to trust that the jury made its decision free of bias
and emotion. Those of us directly affected by this tragedy must find peace in our hearts and remember
that he was the one who pulled the trigger that night. He was the perpetrator, and he should not have
one more minute of power over our lives.

"This verdict cannot and will not divide us. The survivors, families, and first responders as well as the
community of Orlando and everyone around the world must now focus on the work ahead of us. We will
always carry the pain of what happened at Pulse, and we will never forget those who were taken. We
will wrap our arms around all affected today and in the days to come.

"It will be difficult, but we will focus now on healing, and we will continue to work to help communities
emerge from violence and hate. It is as important today as it was 21 months ago."

The Dru Project, created in memory of Pulse victim Dru Leinonen

"We haven't been watching or reading about the trial intentionally. We have preferred not to think or spend energy on the negative aspect of this trial or bigger, overarching problem. These people don't deserve the headlines they're getting or the notoriety they have received.

"We choose to spend our time wisely and positively, honoring Drew Leinonen, and honoring the other 48 angels who lost their lives on June 12, 2016. 

We choose to spend our time pushing forward through the grief, putting anger into action, and speaking out for those who no longer have a voice.

Are you with us?"

Brandon Wolf, Pulse survivor

"Noor Salman does not define justice for the 49. We do. In our fight to protect other communities from feeling our pain. In our commitment to creating a better, safer world for our children. In our refusal to accept the corrupt status quo.

Stay strong, Orlando. We are justice."

"Pulse family: regardless of the verdict today, true justice lies in creating a world our 49 brothers & sisters would be proud of. One where we no longer have to fear bullets when we should be celebrating life. Love you all."

Wolf also spoke to News 6 Friday evening. He said he didn't closely follow the trial because he knew the verdict would not bring back those who died in the attack.

"For those who were looking for justice to be served I was disappointed for them. I was heartbroken for them because I know the pain and trauma of reliving this over and over again. Every time there's a mass shooting we relive it," Wolf said.

Pulse event manager Neema Bahrami 

"I am heading to pulse at 1pm to stand infront of the club that 49 friends of mine were brutally murdered and today we didn't get Justice that we needed for it.

I stand with you and will stand outside giving the love they deserve.

One Pulse 
One Family 
One Love" 

Orlando Torres, Pulse shooting survivor

"I'm just getting the bad news a few minutes ago and I am very disappointed. I'm sure many of the other survivors as well are very hurt.

"Unfortunately Justice was not served in the behalf of the 49 dear Angels and more than 52 others that were physically and mentally injured.

The real truth is known by our God or her God, that she worships too, Because that will be the real judgement day.

I am heartbroken,
May God bless us all."

Christine Leinonen, mother of Pulse victim Dru Leinonen

"I'm sorry to hear that.  But the evidence just wasn't there?"

This post will be updated as more responses are received.


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