The victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre are being remembered on Monday, one year after their lives were cut short during the worst shooting in recent USA history.
The service began what would be nearly 24 hours of observations to remember the victims and the dozens of Pulse patrons who were wounded when Omar Mateen opened fire and pledged allegiance to Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Her friend Akyra Murray was one of the 49 people who lost their lives when 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire in the club, holding hostages for hours before shot and killed by police.
"No matter how dark the night, the sun is always going to shine", Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told victims' family members during a private ceremony.
"I want people to know we are all humans", said Damiani.
The service marked the start of 24 hours of solemn remembrances.
The Orlando Gay Chorus performed Rachel Patten's "Fight Song" during a second service, which was held around 11 a.m., outside of the nightclub.
Orlando City, Orange County and Pulse declared June 12 "Orlando United Day" and many city landmarks have been lit up in rainbow colors, including the Lake Eola Park fountain, Orange County Convention Center, History Center and the Orlando Eye.
"We just had to come here today", said Joe Moy, 56, of Orlando, who has two gay children and attended the event with his wife.
Hundreds of churches around the world, including one in Panama City, simultaneously rang their bells 49 times at noon on the anniversary of the tragedy. Gov. Rick Scott ordered US flags around Florida to be flown at half-staff and a gay-pride flag was unveiled at the Orange County government building.
Over the weekend, thousands of people also remembered those victims in the Equality March for Unity and Pride.
But she said she was grateful for the outpouring of support.
Ms. McBride noted that the Pulse attack occurred during the nightclub's "Latin Night" events. "I miss everything it stood for".
Three years before the shooting, Drayton, who grew up with her mother, uncle and grandmother in Myrtle Beach, moved to Orlando and began work as a bartender at Pulse Nightclub.
"This is about remembering, about moving forward and never being afraid and creating a stronger future for everybody", he said.
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