ORLANDO, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - Survivors and victims' relatives marked the third anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting on Wednesday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a proclamation ordering state flags to be lowered to half-staff and asking Floridians to pause to remember the victims of the shooting. Later, the governor and his wife laid flowers at the site of a remembrance ceremony.
In the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, the Orlando community suffered a horrible tragedy, as gunman Omar Mateen opened fire inside the gay 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.
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. Even hashtags like #LoveWins and #OrlandoStrong trended internationally.
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.
Onwards 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 pay their respects and leave messages until the permanent Pulse memorial is completed.
Just days ago, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy announced that they have introduced legislation that would designate where Pulse nightclub stood, and where the interim memorial currently stands, as a national memorial. They believe the former nightclub deserves the national designation as it will preserve and protect Pulse for future generations.
Meanwhile, work towards a permanent memorial is still underway. In October 2018, the onePULSE Foundation was awarded up to $10 million for a permanent museum. At least $14 million has been raised so far. Six design teams have already been chosen to submit plans for the memorial. The final design will be announced at the end of October. The memorial is expected to open in 2022.
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 broken.