ORLANDO, Fla. — The Central Florida community will come together this week to mark three years since the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Over the next few days, the community will be joining the families of those killed and survivors for remembrance events.
The main memorial events will happen Wednesday, exactly three years after the shooting, but many events started over the weekend and continued into Monday.
The events on Monday included a press conference about a bill to make the Pulse site a national memorial.
Watch the press conference below:
"This will give this hallowed ground the federal recognition it deserves. Especially for those who lost everything. And we will never forget them," U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., said. "This is an important step to preserving an LGBT historic landmark at a time when many of these sites are being destroyed."
Pulse owner Barbara Poma said the designation will also help the memorial receive federal funding.
"We've had generous donations from people who just understand the process to begin with, but then you have people who want to actually see something," she said. "Starting in October, once the design concept has been unveiled, that will be different."
The memorial and museum is scheduled to break ground in 2021 and open in 2022. The project has raised about $14 million of its $45 million of its goal.
Students at the University of Central Florida also held a remembrance ceremony Monday at the Live Oak Event Center on campus.
Many who attended the events said it's important to not just mourn the 49 people killed but to spread love and kindness in their memory.
“It's going to be a difficult week coming up -- all the memories that come back,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
Despite the celebratory atmosphere at a onePULSE Foundation event Sunday, Dyer said he knows many in the community are still hurting.
“It was the darkest day in our history on June the 12th, three years ago,” Dyer said.
To mark three years since the tragedy, hundreds of people stood together Sunday afternoon to form a heart.
It was one of three events this past weekend honoring the victims' lives.
On Saturday afternoon, four Central Florida LGBT college students were each awarded $4,900 scholarships. Earlier Saturday, people ran in the 4.9-mile Rainbow Run.
“It's a big deal,” said resident Joanna Goldman. “It's nice to see the community come together and be such a part of it, even years later.”
For Goldman, participating in the events feels particularly personal. She works for the medical examiner's office, which received the bodies after the attack.
“It was rewarding to be able to come back and honor the victims of Pulse since we worked it,” Goldman said. “It was an honor to run that walk that they did.”
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