ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - On June 12, 2016, at 2:02 a.m., as a night of dancing was ending at the Pulse nightclub, a gunman started opening fire.
After several hours and a standoff, 49 people and the gunman were dead and 53 others were injured. Orlando, the LGBTQ community and the world were shaken to the core.
At the time, it was the worst mass shooting in United States history.
In the two years since, the nightclub has not reopened. There's currently a temporary memorial at the site, with plans in the works for a permanent memorial by 2020.
"People still come here on a regular basis," said Barbara Poma, the club's owner. "I don't think you can drive by any given time of day or night and not find people here."
Families and survivors were able to have some private time at the site where their loved ones died two years ago.
Survivor Joshua Lewis said prayer and music gets him through the difficult days.
"It's bittersweet," Lewis said. "It's bitter, because we lost lives, but at the same time, we're remembering those lives. And at the same time, it's brining the community together."
A private ceremony was held so they could grieve together. Angels formed a human shield around them.
"They're helping to keep hate away from the families and to block out any negativity," LGBTQ activist Terry DeCarlo said.
The onePULSE Foundation hosted its annual remembrance ceremony at the nightclub Tuesday night.
Joining in song and prayer, community members and leaders gathered to honor the victims. This year, the names of the victims were read by their family members.
WATCH: Pulse Remembrance Ceremony
In some of the readings, the family member shared the person’s dreams and goals. The ceremony honored the LGBTQ community and the Latino community.
Parents showed their young children pictures and messages on the memorial an as the ceremony drew to a close, white doves were released into the air.
This evening, the Central Florida community gathered at the Pulse interim memorial to pay tribute to the 49 innocent victims of the Pulse tragedy. The ceremony served as a reminder that love is always greater than hate. #OrlandoUnited #WeWillNotLetHateWin pic.twitter.com/yhOqt8otrT— Orange County FL (@OrangeCoFL) June 12, 2018
At the University of Central Florida, where two of the Pulse victims were students, remembrance events were held the day after the events at Pulse, so as to not interfere.
"We have students who knew people that were affected. We have students that were affected,” said Codie Frank, the campus’ LGBTQ services coordinator. “For us, we have to keep remembering to be able to move forward to process and understand."
Tuesday's first tribute happened at 2:02 a.m, the exact moment the shooting started that day. A crowd gathered at the temporary memorial outside the nightclub.
The group gathered in a circle and recited the names of the 49 victims.
At noon, 49 bells rang across Orlando.
"Everybody seems more hopeful," Kissimmee resident Jennifer Kimball said. "There is love in the community. Obviously, the world isn't perfect yet, but ... these little acts, this little bit of beauty in our city is hopefully going to send a message of love."
Orlando feels the pain of that night every day, but especially every 12th of June as the region remembers the tragedy and pays tribute to the 49 innocent lives that were taken.
"Love your loved ones, because you never know when they could be gone," Lewis said. "Forgive and forget."
June 12 is Orlando United Day – A Day of Love and Kindness. The day is dedicated to honoring the memory of the 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, supporting survivors and recognizing the compassion and love displayed by our community. Our #PulseExhibit is free thru 6/16. pic.twitter.com/eGTjGaz62N— The History Center (@HistoryCenterFL) June 12, 2018
We honor and remember the men and women who lost their lives two years ago in the Pulse nightclub attack. We will never forget. @OrangeCoFL @OrlandoPolice @citybeautiful #OneOrlandoFund #pulsenightclub pic.twitter.com/Y3NDsZvTQS— OCSO FL News (@OrangeCoSheriff) June 12, 2018
Today we remember the 49 innocent lives lost on June 12, 2016. We honor their memory with a tribute of 49 stiches holding up the quilt at Station One to symbolize each one. #OrlandoStrong #OrlandoUnited pic.twitter.com/Cd8tsamBu5— Orlando Fire Dept (@OrlandoFireDept) June 12, 2018
We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder.— OCFire Rescue (@OCFireRescue) June 11, 2018
We continue to be inspired by the community for which we serve.
We continue to #Rememberthe49#LoveWins #Pulse@ChiefOttoDrozd @OrangeCoFL https://t.co/EiXZ4abAlr
In recognition of the 49 innocent lives lost in the horrific attack on #PulseNightclub in 2016, @FLGovScott has proclaimed today, June 12th, #PulseRemembranceDay in Florida. https://t.co/R1GO5lMFkQ pic.twitter.com/f3CLYuziA4— Florida Sheriffs (@FLSheriffs) June 12, 2018
We will never forget the innocent lives taken two years ago today. https://t.co/tIFONc8k8v— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) June 12, 2018
Today we honor and remember the 49 victims and the survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting that occurred two years ago. You are forever in our hearts and minds. #OralndoStrong #Pulse pic.twitter.com/P4S7Mj0Q7t— Seminole County S.O. (@SeminoleSO) June 12, 2018
Tuesday is the second anniversary of the Pulse tragedy. We know that this anniversary can trigger traumatic experiences for survivors and the community.— UCF (@UCF) June 11, 2018
Know that there is always help 💛 https://t.co/YhD3FVoH3J
Today marks two years since the tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Join us in honoring and remembering the 49 lives lost that day, those who survived and the first responders who put their own lives on the line to save so many more: https://t.co/9s5cAk8mOE— Senator Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) June 12, 2018
This morning, @FLAnnScott and I visited the Pulse Memorial to honor and remember the 49 innocent lives that were lost two years ago. They will never be forgotten.— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) June 12, 2018
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