ORLANDO, Fla. — Local officials and community members gathered at Pulse nightclub Monday morning to remember the 49 people killed one year ago in an attack at the venue.
Club owner Barbara Poma spoke at the event, which featured a performance by the Orlando Gay Chorus.
"I miss Pulse. I miss everything it stood for. I miss serving the LGBTQ plus community," Poma said. “I think I speak for all of us: We are all changed.”
Poma told survivors and former patrons that the attack was the darkest moment of her life.
“It breaks my heart that your sanctuary was taken from you, but I know we are resilient, and I know we will not let hate win,” she said.
She repeated her hopes to open Pulse in a new location and reserve the area for a memorial.
With a chorus in the background, visitors left messages outside and shared stories.
“I think we are stronger and better. People know Orlando is a community of love,” said visitor Ali Grego.
For Orlando’s mayor, announcing the death toll was the toughest moment of his professional career. He said the city was defined by its response to the tragedy.
“We didn’t respond to a hate-filled act with fear, or hatred or anger. We responded with love and compassion and unity,” said Mayor Buddy Dyer.
Visitors said they’ll never forget the victims and will continue to come together in times of crisis.
“We still love them. We still care, and we will always remember them. They will never be forgotten,” said visitor Estella Peterkin.
Dignitaries, including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Reps. Val Demings, Stephanie Brown and Darren Soto, spoke at the event.
"This city united the country," Nelson said.
Victims' names were read aloud and a display of 49 wreaths was unveiled.
Comfort dogs were also at the event.
Cox Media Group