PULSE: 'Orlando Love' event honors Pulse with song, hugs, tears

By News 13 Team Coverage,
Last Updated: Monday, June 12, 2017, 11:27 PM EDT

One year after 49 people lost their lives at Pulse nightclub, the Central Florida community came together in solidarity to remember the fallen and to spread a message of love, compassion and kindness.

Hundreds of people have dropped off flowers, drawings and cards at a memorial near Pulse. An overnight, private service was held at the nightclub, followed by a public midday service. Thousands took part in a gathering in downtown Orlando Monday night at Lake Eola, filled with prayer, singing and dancing.

A final, music-filled late-night service will be held at the nightclub.

At noon, church bells throughout the Orlando area rang out 49 times. Gov. Rick Scott ordered U.S. flags around Florida to be flown at half-staff and a giant rainbow flag was unveiled at the Orange County government building.

Latest updates throughout the day:

10:04 p.m.

A long line of people are trying to get into a gated area for the Moments of Hope and Healing event at the Pulse site. The event is expected to go until midnight.

9:55 p.m.

The Orlando Love event is wrapping up in Lake Eola with musical numbers, including a song, "Love Can Move Mountains." 

A final event is being held at the Pulse site tonight.

9:45 p.m.

The presenters are now reading the names of the 49 victims. Each time a name is read, one of the Angel Force members comes on stage for them, and a bell is rung.

9:20 p.m.

Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan walked out on stage to cheers and in tears. She praised the city for its resilience and support, first in Spanish, then in English.

"The most powerful force is love, so we choose love!" Sheehan said. "We choose acceptance! We choose to feel so powerfully sometimes we feel our hearts will break, but we choose to be a light to the world with the way lit by 49 angels."

9 p.m.

Come Out With Pride is October 14 at Lake Eola. The annual event brought out over 100,000 people last year. 

8:55 p.m.

Pulse owner Barbara Poma took the stage with the staff of Pulse. 

Poma praised Orlando for its efforts to help those affected by the tragedy. She said Orlando's response helped change hearts and minds. She thanked Orlandoans for continuing to respond by showing love and support. She said even in Orlando's weakest moments they were taking care of each other like one large family.

"We have made it through one year and we continue to go forward together," Poma said. "The people in Orlando rise up, they stay strong and I believe together we will defeat hate."

8:40 p.m.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, spoke on the U.S. Senate floor about the attack on Pulse and Orlando's response in the last year.

 

 

8:30 p.m.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said Orlando United Day, June 12, would always honor the 49 people lost in the Pulse attack, but also remind Orlandoans how they came together as a community one year ago.

"We were united with the LGBTQ, Latinx and Hispanic communities with the deep aching need to help, to do something, to help the hurting," Jacobs said.

She said Orlandoans know they have a commitment to honor the victims and survivors, but also to live the best life they can live for each other.

8:21 p.m.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer comes out to thank the community leaders who supported efforts to honor the victims of the Pulse attack. He honored the community for showing such love and support in a trying time. 

He also spoke to the families and survivors of the attack, and promised that the city would always be there for them.

"We have your back, no matter what. Orlando loves you, Orlando loves you, Orlando loves you," Dyer said.

7:58 p.m.

After a brief delay the One Orlando event began with a pipe and drum band, the Pledge of Allegiance, an interfaith prayer and a storyteller, explaining Orlando on June 11, 2016, the day before the attack on Pulse.

7:32 p.m.

The Orlando Love event is beginning at Lake Eola. As the Angel Force walked through the crowd to the stage, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer tweeted this video:

The Angel Force was created last year to shield mourners of the Pulse victims from anti-gay protesters.

6:47 p.m.

City of Orlando is delaying the start of the Orlando Love event at Lake Eola Park until 7:30 p.m. because of the rain.

6:40 p.m.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings reflected on one year since the Pulse tragedy with Ybeth Bruzual:

6:07 p.m.

"It's very emotional day for everyone, but it's so nice to see people come out and be supportive of this community," said Orlando Police Chief John Mina to reporter Greg Pallone. 

Mina is out at Lake Eola for tonight's vigil there, after visiting memorials and events all day. But Orlando police are also out in force to protect those who are attending the events. Mina said people have been coming up to his officers and thanking them, and it's been gratifying. 

Meanwhile, he's also talked to law enforcement officers who were there that morning last year. 

"I think they feel the way the rest of our community does, still grieving, still have very strong feelings about what happened that night," Mina said.

5:50 p.m.

A huge tribute event is being held at Lake Eola Park at 7 p.m.

Reporter Julie Gargotta spoke to the musical director for the event.

"For those deeply entrenched in the LGBTQ community, getting through Monday was, at times, a challenge.

"'I might not make eye contact, because I don’t want to melt in tears on stage,' said Andrea Canny, the musical director for the production. 'I can’t save somebody’s life medically, but I can put a bunch of singers together so this is what I’m doing.'

"Canny has been working on wrangling choirs and perfecting the show for months. Sunday night, she tediously proofread the 49 victims' names which someone will read on stage, pairing them with pictures. Come Monday morning, she was guiding flower and chair deliveries to the amphitheater, meeting with other producers and directing run-throughs of performances.

"'We want it to be a huge hug, and a mission of love that we’re showing Orlando we are not going anywhere,' she said. 'We are staying here, still here for you, for the families.'"

Read the rest of Julie's story.

5:40 p.m.

5:30 p.m.

If you are planning to attend one of the vigils tonight, Orange County posted this reminder on Twitter:

4:30 p.m.

Central Florida's three Democratic lawmakers have introduced a resolution calling on Congress to recognize one year since the Pulse attack.

The resolution remembers the victims, families and survivors of the tragedy. It also reaffirms support for first responders.

Congressmen Darren Soto, Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy sponsored the resolution, which has 130 cosponsors.

Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have also introduced a resolution in the U.S. Senate. You can read the resolution on Nelson's website (.PDF).

3:30 p.m.

The Orange County Regional History Center is hosting an exhibit of mementos collected from makeshift memorials in the weeks after the Pulse tragedy through June 17.

For those who can't get to the History Center, there is now a digital gallery of the collection. Learn more about the collection.

3 p.m.

Many of the people visiting Pulse nightclub today are noticing some friendly faces handing out something much needed in this hot weather: water.

With people’s minds focused on what happened one year ago, volunteer Ashley Rojas is making sure they also stay hydrated.

“It’s steaming, and the suns not even out. Imagine if the sun were out,” Rojas said. “I carry four bottles at a time and I can’t even make it a couple steps, and then I have to turn around and get more water.”

Rojas is one of several volunteers with Christ Church of Orlando, the closest church to Pulse, just a couple of blocks away.

For weeks after the Pulse shooting last year, the church opened its doors to everyone — especially first responders — who needed water, food or even just a place to cool off inside.

A year later, volunteers such as Rojas are again handing out water at Pulse. But Rojas is finding herself doing much more for some who are overcome with grief. One man lost 12 friends at Pulse.

“(He) came straight toward me and poured out his heart, and I listened, and I think that’s exactly what he needed,” Rojas said. “For somebody losing 12 close friends, I can’t even imagine. I can’t even imagine losing one."

A water bottle — or a hug — either way, Rojas says she’s happy she can help comfort people dealing with such a difficult day.

“I think what people do need sometimes is a hug, somebody to hug them and tell them you’re loved.”

1:30 p.m.

As of close of business yesterday, Brooklyn Water Bagel has sold over 2,000 rainbow bagels to date, helping to raise more than $3,000 for the Better Together Fund of Central Florida Foundation between the two locations (Lake Mary and Winter Park). The company is selling them today as well.

"The community response and feedback has been very positive, and people have been coming in regularly to purchase both individual rainbow bagels to benefit Pulse in addition to picking up Baker’s dozens of the rainbow bagels for Pulse to bring back to families, friends and their offices. It’s been a truly beautiful sight to see the community come together in this way to pay special tribute to such an important cause," the company said.

Noon

The Orlando United Assistance Center provides helpful resources for those who might need counseling or help dealing with today. Go to their website for help.

11:45 a.m.

The Orlando City Soccer Club said Orlando City Stadium will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today for anyone who wants to visit the 49 rainbow-colored seats and pay tribute to the victims of the Pulse tragedy.

11 a.m.

Hundreds gathered at Pulse nightclub for a special Reflections and Remembrance event, open to the public.

11 a.m.

A 25-foot-long section of the "sea-to-sea" rainbow flag was in Central Florida in the days following Pulse. Now, it’s back -- in front of Central Florida dignitaries, a piece of the flag was unfurled Monday morning on the side of the Orange County Administration Building in downtown Orlando.

10:55 a.m.

Throughout the morning, people have been surrounding the fence at Pulse nightclub, leaving momentos, reading heartfelt notes left for loved ones lost.

At 11 a.m., a second remembrance, this one open to the public, will be held at the club. Barbara Poma, the club's owner, will speak.

Some Pulse shooting survivors, at the nightclub today, say the once-fun sanctuary for the LGBTQ community was tranformed that night into a terrifying scene. But today, it's been brought back to life with hope.

7 a.m.

An intimate, invitation-only gathering at Pulse nightcub in the middle of the night Monday was the first of several somber remembrances for the 49 lives lost in the Pulse nightclub shooting one year ago.

At the nightclub on South Orange Avenue, parents, partners and friends of loved ones affected by the tragedy gathered to reflect at the exact time and place where the 49 people were killed in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history: 2:02 a.m. June 12.

“It was mixed feelings. You can’t ever avoid the sadness, when you remember the tragedy that happened. There’s no way around it,” state Sen. Linda Stewart said.

Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma spoke first, followed by the reading of the 49 names of the victims. 

As Orlando United Day began, those such as Jim McDermott turned their thoughts to the strength left behind by those who died, plus the work still to be done by lawmakers.

“We’re in a bubble of hope right now. The rest of the country is going through strife. There’s black vs. white, gay vs. straight, there’s all of that. But not in Orlando. And that is the last gift our survivors, that our 49 have given to us,” said McDermott, who lost a friend to medical complications.

Stewart said government leaders need to work together to prevent tragedies such as this one from happening again.

“From what we gained from all of this remembrance is that we prove again and again that Orlando stands together,” she said.

Gov. Rick Scott has proclaimed today Pulse Remembrance Day and directed flags to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.