Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the worst mass shooting in the country’s history, which took place on June 12, 2016, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Friends and family of the 49 people who were killed as well as the 50 who were injured gathered on what was declared by the city of Orlando to be “Orlando United Day – A Day of Love and Kindness.” The nightclub was only open to those friends and family and survivors to mark the tragic anniversary.
“This day is dedicated to the memory and honor of the 49 innocent lives taken at Pulse, reaffirms the community’s commitment to survivors and loved ones, as well as recognizes the global compassion and love displayed in the wake of the tragedy,” city officials said in a statement.
The full day of events will feature a midday service, a “Orlando Love: Remembering Our Angels” gathering, and then a music-filled celebration at the nightclub itself.
However, not everyone who was allowed to attend will be doing so, as many survivors and family members find it too painful.
Demetrice Naulings, who lost his best friend, Eddie Justice, was emotional thinking of the day one year ago, when he and Justice had been separated in a narrow hallway in which people were being trampled in the rush to get out.
Moments after Naulings and Justice were separated, he got a Snapchat message from his friend: “I’ve been shot. I’m going into shock. Please tell them to hurry up. Call the police.”
“I’ve been afraid to go back,” he said of the Pulse nightclub. “I feel like I left a part of me there.
“I got out,” he added in a choked whisper, “but Eddie didn’t.”
Another survivor, Ricardo Negron, said that it would be too much to bear to return, saying, “There’s going to be so many things going on that I feel it will be overwhelming for those affected.”