5 years later: Orlando remembers the Pulse nightclub shooting

The Orlando community is joining together to remember the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting on its five-year commemoration.

Bells will toll at noon in Orlando on Saturday in honor of the victims. At night a remembrance ceremony will be held. 

In the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, the Orlando community suffered a horrible tragedy, as gunman Omar Mateen opened fire inside the nightclub, killing 49 people and wounding another 53

While devastated and mourning, Orlando pulled together and stood united in the face of adversity. Citizens joined first responders and officials in aiding the surviving victims. Dozens were saved thanks to the quick actions of those first responders and medical professionals. 

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Just hours after the shooting, vigils and memorials arose in every corner of the city, as people paid their respects. One of the most remarkable moments was the Lake Eola vigil, which almost 50,000 people attended. It did not take long for the rest of the world to follow, as more memorials and vigils popped up around the globe. Hashtags like #LoveWins and #OrlandoStrong trended internationally. 


A makeshift memorial to victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting continues to grow in front of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, June 18, 2016. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Serv

On the one-year anniversary of the shooting, Orlando held "Orlando United Day." This citywide event gave people an opportunity to join with others in acts of love and kindness, further continuing the unity that followed the tragedy. A whole day of events throughout the city ended with a "Remembering Our Angels" commemoration at Lake Eola.


The community gathers to remember the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting on what has become "Orlando United Day." This image is from the June 12, 2017 remembrance ceremony.

Onward to the spring of 2018, Noor Salman, Matteen's widow, faced a jury after being accused of aiding and abetting her husband. However, she was acquitted of the charges after an emotional and intense three-week trial. 

Then in May of 2018, an interim memorial for the 49 victims of shooting opened to the public at the site of the Pulse Nightclub. The club’s sign was improved and a new fence was placed around the nightclub’s perimeter with images from Pulse and tributes to the victims and survivors. This memorial provides a place for visitors to pay their respects and leave messages until the permanent Pulse memorial is completed.


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The permanent Pulse memorial is expected to open in 2022. The design for the memorial was chosen in October 2019 and features a reflecting pool encircling the Pulse building. Forty-nine colors line the basin and shine toward a peaceful garden with 49 trees. There will also be an Orlando Health Survivors wall that will trace the three-block journey many victims and first responders took the night of the tragedy.

In June 2021, just days before the five-year anniversary of the shooting, the United States Senate passed a bill that officially designates the Pulse Nightclub site as a nationally recognized memorial. Senator Rick Scott introduced and passed by unanimous consent the resolution recognizing the anniversary of the Pulse tragedy and honoring the 49 innocent victims. A companion bill to the memorial legislation was led by Congressman Darren Soto in the U.S. House and passed the House by voice vote on May 13.

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In addition, to help mark the five-year anniversary of the deadly attack, the Orange County Regional History Center is hosting a special exhibit titled "Community: Five Years After the Pulse Tragedy." Inside the exhibit, visitors will see artifacts and testimonials from the days before the tragedy, mementos, and tributes that poured in from around the world. They will also learn about how things changed after the shooting. It is open now and through August 15. However, it is free from June 5th through June 13th.

On this anniversary of a tragic event that forever changed our city, our hearts still mourn the loss of the 49 victims lost. However, Orlando still stands united. The city works continuously to honor and remember all the lives lost, the families affected, and the hearts that are broken. 

Pulse 49

A Five-Year Pulse Remembrance Ceremony will be held (invitation only) with a live stream available for the public to watch at Dr. Phillips Center Frontyard Festival from 7 to 8 p.m. on Saturday. It will also be available to stream on the onePULSE Foundation Facebook Page and YouTube Channel. Visit onePULSEfoundation.org/ for more details.

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