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Hundreds Mark Anniversary of Orlando Shooting

  • VOA News

Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma comforts Orlando City commissioner Patty Sheehan, right, June 12, 2017, during a ceremony at the club in Orlando, Florida, on the one-year anniversary of the June 12, 2016, shooting that killed 49.

Hundreds of people gathered in Orlando, Florida, Monday to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse that left 49 people dead and 53 others injured.

People placed flowers, drawings and the rainbow flag of the gay rights movement at the nightclub, while 49 people dressed as angels, in large white wings, surrounded the building.

WATCH: Love, Kindness replace hate​

Club opens for private ceremony

The club opened Monday at 2 a.m. — the time of the attack — to relatives of the victims and survivors of the shooting for a private ceremony, when the names of the 49 people killed were read aloud.

A memorial service was held later in the day and attended by city officials. Both Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said the kindness shown after the tragedy is what will be remembered most.

The Orlando Gay Chorus performed four songs at the event. A member of the chorus, Dan Jones, said: “What the shooter was trying to do was to destroy the LGBT community. And what he did was brought the LGBT community together, but also built bridges with other communities that we didn't have those bridges with before.”

June 12 has officially been named Orlando United Day to commemorate the attack in which 29-year-old Omar Mateen entered the Pulse nightclub with an assault rifle and began shooting. During a standoff with police, Mateen claimed allegiance to Islamic State before he was killed in an exchange of gunfire.

President Donald Trump tweeted a picture of the 49 victims Monday and wrote “We will NEVER FORGET the victims who lost their lives one year ago today in the horrific #PulseNightClub shooting. #OrlandoUnitedDay.”

Everything has changed

The owner of the nightclub, Barbara Poma, said everything has changed since the shooting.

“Everything you do every day is different. Your heart is forever changed. Your life is forever changed," she said."The whole direction of life has changed.”

She said the club, which has never reopened, will become a permanent memorial.

Florida's Governor Rick Scott ordered all flags around Florida to be flown at half-staff Monday. At noon, church bells throughout Orlando rang 49 times to honor the victims.

Mateen's widow, Noor Salman, is facing charges of aiding and abetting her husband and lying to authorities investigating the shooting. She has pleaded not guilty.

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