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Orlando remembers the 49 killed during Pulse shooting

Flags and banners are placed in front of First United Methodist Church in downtown Orlando.
Marian Summerall
Flags and banners are placed in front of First United Methodist Church in downtown Orlando.

Eight years after 49 people were killed during the Pulse nightclub shooting, the names of those killed were read and a bell rang for each victim at a remembrance ceremony in downtown Orlando.

Community members and families gathered for a remembrance ceremony honoring the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Inside First United Methodist Church in downtown Orlando, families, friends and community leaders gathered to read the names of those killed for the Ringing of the 49 Bells Ceremony.

The church bell rang 49 times — a ring for each of the victims that were killed on June 12, 2016.

Brett Rigas was at Pulse the night of the massacre. He lost his partner that night and said he hopes the community recognizes the importance of this memorial.

“It's healing until a memorial is built. This is the only way that we can really get together and connect and be in each other's lives.”

The City of Orlando is working with the community to establish a permanent memorial remembering the victims of the shooting.

Rigas said this memorial is not just another day for him and the community. He said it’s different “because you see the community come together again, like they did during that time. I come to this, almost every year. I work and live downtown. But my partner was from Texas, and he's buried in Texas. So this just brings the community back together.”

The process to design and build a permanent memorial has faced challenges since the shooting. Rigas said he wants the community to love one another, and not be quick to make judgments.

“Before they jump to any conclusions on what the city is doing with the memorial, they need to attend one of the meetings instead of posting things online and getting in an uproar when they don't have all the facts for everything,” Rigas said.

Also at the memorial event was Come Out with Pride’s Tatiana Quiroga. She said the community continues to heal from the tragedy.

Her organization hosts Orlando’s annual pride celebration and works with the City of Orlando and local police departments during the event. She wishes to keep the community and guests feeling safe.

“We are the largest single day event in Orlando with over 200,000 people and security,” Quiroga said. “And safety is our top priority, because we live in Orlando, and worst cases already happened. And so we are just always on edge…and it's just unfortunate that it's something that we have to always kind of look over our shoulder, because it's something that really did impact us so greatly.”

Quiroga says the event changed the fabric of the community and that since the massacre, the community of Central Florida became more inclusive and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.

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