Orlando United: How Pulse tragedy brought Floridians together

Vigils, church services, and makeshift memorials around Orlando honored the victims of the worst mass shooting in modern US history. 

Craig Rubadoux/Florida Today/AP
People hold candles at a candlelight vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, as they gather at Lake Eola Park in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday.

An estimated 50,000 Floridians gathered in Lake Eola Park Sunday night to pay tribute to the lives lost in the massacre at Orlando's Pulse nightclub a week prior. 

While politicians and pundits spent the last week locked in divisive debates over how to prevent the next shooting, the people of Orlando have come together in remembrance and unity.

Attendees of the vigil held candles, white flowers, and American flags, and chanted "One Orlando," "Orlando United," and "Somos Orlando," Spanish for "We are Orlando." Right before the vigil began, a rainbow appeared in the sky in what many described as a miraculous tribute to the 49 victims who died when gunman Omar Mateen opened fire in the gay nightclub on June 12.

"We shared a sorrow this past week that was so profound that at times it felt like healing would be impossible," Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs told the crowd, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel. "Every person that was lost was the fabric of our community.... To our LGBTQ community, I tell you today that you are not alone. You are not alone in your sorrow and you are not alone in this fight."

A group of Muslim-Americans at the vigil held signs that read, "Muslims Condemn Extremism." Police say Mr. Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call he made during the attack. He was then gunned down himself after police stormed the venue. 

Partial transcripts of the conversations between Mateen and Orlando police negotiators will be released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in interviews on several news shows on Sunday.

"That event has gotten the attention of the world," Evania Nichols, an Orlando resident who attended the Lake Eola Park vigil, told the Associated Press. "And, for Orlando – a city that's always been incredibly inclusive no matter your skin color, no matter your background – it's brought about a movement that I think is starting here and I really hope continues."

The vigil at Lake Eola Park was one of many services held throughout the city that day. Makeshift memorials were also constructed in front of the city's new performing arts center and at Orlando Regional Medical Center, where many of the 53 shooting victims who survived were taken for treatment. 

The Pulse massacre, said to be the worst mass shooting in modern US history, was "devastating," said Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday while praying at the First Baptist Church of Orlando. 

"But here is the positive out of it ... people have come together," he said. "There are so many people who have done so many wonderful acts."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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