ORLANDO, Fla. -- On Tuesday, the community came together to remember the two years since the Pulse nightclub attack where 49 people were killed and 53 people were injured.
- June 12 proclaimed as Pulse Remembrance Day
- Many people still bringing flowers, mementos to club
- RELATED: Honor Them With Action: Pulse ralliers call for end to gun violence
Gov. Rick Scott has proclaimed June 12 as Pulse Remembrance Day. And two years later, people continue to visit the memorial at all hours of the day and night to pay respects to the 49 victims. And people are still bringing flowers, signs and other mementos to the club.
The focus is not on the shooting, but rather the people who were gunned down in the nightclub two years ago.
Their names, their stories, what they lived for are all etched into this interim memorial, which opened a month ago.
“It’s just about community. Just showing people that it doesn’t define us," said Liz Otero, who lost her cousin, Amanda Alvear, in the Pulse shooting.
Otero didn’t come to the ceremony last year -- it was too difficult to bear.
But Tuesday, family in tow, she rallied to honor her cousin, wearing a t-shirt with her smiling face.
The City Beautiful didn't forget about the lives lost on June 12, 2016 -- instead, the community honored the victims through song, dance and a reading of their names.
Mark Puig came down to Pulse at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. It is where he met his husband and they were actually planning on coming to the nightclub the night of the attack, but at the last minute decided not to.
"Out of this horrible, horrible evil, good has come out of it. I have seen our community become stronger. I've seen tolerance flourish in our city and as an open-gay man, to drive down Orange Avenue and see Orlando United, rainbow flags. I just sense the community has changed. These angels did not die in vain," he said.
As they gathered Tuesday morning for a private ceremony, angels wrapped around the nightclub like a hug enveloping the interim memorial.
“They’re just so important because they do represent angels and we have 49 we have to pay homage to today," said George Wallace.
The Executive Director of the Center — which serves as a hub for the LGBT+ community in Orlando — woke up early to make sure they were in place.
But emotion got the best of him when they read the victims’ names aloud.
“I had to step back I … just saying it -- it gets me every time," Wallace said, tears springing to his eyes. “Every single person, they have a story."
Though Alvear’s story ended two years ago, her family wants her memory to live on.
“She’s with God. And she is an amazing person," said Maribel Carrion, Alvear's aunt. “When somebody’s gay or somebody’s black, no hate ..."
“I think just spreading love, being in the moment … she was definitely a person who was in the moment, she was a person who laughed, joked," said Otero.“Remembering that everyday counts. I think she would really like that."
Annual remembrance ceremony
On Tuesday night, the onePULSE Foundation held a remembrance ceremony with local leaders and the public, to pay tribute to the victims, survivors and first responders.
Pulse Owner Barbara Poma spoke to the crowd along with city and county leaders.
“It’s up to all of us to keep telling their stories, to be their voices,” she said.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs read a proclamation declaring every June 12 “Orlando United Day” -- a day of love and kindness.
The names of the 49 victims known as the “Pulse angels” were read to the crowd.
Melissa King attended the ceremony and was a friend of Amanda Alvear, who died in the shooting.
“We can’t let their names be forgotten, and it’s important that it’s still a healing process that even though it’s been two years, it feels like it was yesterday. The thing we have to do is overcome the hate to change the world for the better,” King said.
The ceremony Tuesday night also included dance performances and songs.
Sisters Emmalie and Melanie Kimball handed out heart shaped cards to people in the crowd.
“We’ve been handing these cards out since the Pulse shooting and just telling people love always wins,” Emmalie said.
Melissa King stood with a sign offering, “free hugs.” Many in attendance took her up on the affectionate offer.
“It can only translate into love. It’s a universal sign, so it doesn’t matter what language you speak, the religion you have, your sexuality, your race, it doesn’t matter. It’s a common link between them all,” she said.
Reporters Jerry Hume and Cheryn Stone contributed to this story.