ORLANDO, Fla. — As families, friends and survivors filed through the fence surrounding Pulse nightclub early Monday, reality set in.
They were standing on hallowed ground. The place where 49 innocents lost their lives exactly six months ago.
Tall, white candles were set up in a pulse pattern on the ground near the entrance of the club. They held up multi-colored stars with the names of each of the victims. White and red roses bordered the arrangement.
The crowd gathered around the memorial. Many wore black as a sign of mourning or a shirt with their loved one’s face on it. Some brought flowers to honor a friend or family member lost in the shooting.
At 2:02 a.m. — the exact time when the shooting began June 12 — the names of the victims were read. Each name brought more tears, more sobbing and more heartbreak. Then members of the crowd lit each candle in the arrangement.
For Orlando Torres it’s surreal to think six months have passed.
“Time really does fly,” he said. “ … It was very somber and very touching.”
Torres was inside the club when the shooting started and huddled inside a bathroom to hide. He stayed there for hours and was rescued by police after SWAT blasted several holes in the side of the building.
Charlotte Davis used to frequent the club and knew several of those killed in the tragedy.
“It’s very difficult to be this close to a scenery that’s normally full of life and joy and happiness and for it to now be a scene of sorrow and pain and grief, but definitely a lot of love, it’s definitely hard,” she said.
Jim McDermott went to the vigil to honor his friend Chris Brodman, who died three months after surviving the shooting due to a brain hemorrhage.
“I’m proud of the Orlando community for coming together,” he said. “ … We’re all one community and one family and we need more love in this world and that’s why we’re here.”