'We have to keep remembering': Honoring Pulse two years later

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."

Watch: WFTV remembers the 49 Pulse victims

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

WATCH LIVE: Pulse Remembrance Ceremony

Survivors, their families, their friends and the community have gathered at Pulse for a remembrance ceremony two years after the attack.

Posted by WFTV Channel 9 on Tuesday, June 12, 2018

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.

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."

"For as long as we live, they too will live... for they are now a part of us." Today marks one month since the shooting at #Pulse. This moment from the vigil at Lake Eola Park is one I'll never forget. The reading is called "We Remember Them." Today and always... let's remember them. #WFTV #OrlandoStrong #OrlandoUnited #OrlandoUnido

Posted by Nancy Alvarez, WFTV on Tuesday, July 12, 2016