ORLANDO, Fla. – Sunday at noon, amid days of events in observance of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, each of the 49 victims killed in the attack were recognized with the somber tolling of a bell at the First United Methodist Church of Orlando.
On Sunday evening, a remembrance ceremony was held at the Pulse Memorial site from 7 to 8 p.m., featuring remarks from such speakers as Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and onePULSE Foundation founder Barbara Poma.
“Orlando chose courage, Orlando chose strength, and above all, Orlando chose unity,” Poma said.
Before the names of the victims were read aloud, survivors shared their stories.
“I was shot four times on the morning of June 12th, six years ago today,” said survivor Amanda Grau.
There were stories of hope and inspiration through healing.
“I’m not a survivor, that implies I’m getting by the best I can,” said Patience Murray, a survivor. “I’m a champion because I faced extreme challenges and succeeded.”
Dyer credited the city with how it responded.
“We responded with love, we responded with compassion, and yes, we responded with unity,” he said.
Rolon applauded the sacrifice made that day by law enforcement officers and first responders.
“We should also give a lot of credit to the men and women, not the leadership, to go in there and take care when people needed the most,” Rolon said.
The “49 Bells Ceremony” took place following an 11 a.m. worship service at the church, located downtown at the intersection of East South Street and South Rosalind Avenue, less than one and a half miles north of Pulse.
The service included songs by the Orlando Gay Chorus, and the church’s Sanctuary remained open until 1 p.m. for quiet reflection.
Cameron Garrett, director of new ministries and interim director of youth ministry at the church, said in a statement he wished for the congregation to stay after the service and ceremony concludes as to help welcome the many people visiting Orlando Sunday to reflect on Pulse.
“Let’s commit to sticking around after our service in order to welcome those who attend the remembrance with all of the gentle and hospitable care we can muster,” Garrett wrote. “May we find the depth of our commitment to help.”
Levi MacLean was one of dozens who showed up at the Pulse Memorial site to grieve and pay respects to the 49 people who died six years ago Sunday. Many dropped off flowers and showed support also for the more than 50 people who were hurt on that tragic day.
“I hope that we can show that we can support all the LGBTQ+ community and provide a safe space to mourn and remember,” MacLean said.
Luis Ruyz said it’s a sad reminder of the pain and grief that still lingers.
“It’s definitely a reminder,” Ruyz said. “There’s been great strides made for the gay community but we still have a long way to go. We can’t have these tragedies happen ever again.”
Learn more at the onePULSE Foundation’s website.