ORLANDO, FL — Hundreds of people gathered at Pulse in Orlando overnight for a vigil to pay tribute to the 49 people killed at the nightclub a year ago.
The attack on June 12, 2016, was the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Gunman Omar Mateen was killed in a shootout with police hours later after storming the club.
CNN affiliate WKMG reported that 49 people dressed as angels surrounded the club ahead of a private memorial service for friends and families of the victims early Monday.
The angels — wearing wide white wings and carrying candles — were the same people who had shielded mourners in the days after the attack, the broadcaster said.
Club owner Barbara Poma said attendees had “gathered in the name of love,” while Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told victims’ loved ones they would “once again once again be able to smile, and dance, and laugh.”
“The sun always rises, the light always triumphs the darkness,” Dyer said, according to WKMG reporter Sachelle Saunders.
Families members read the names of the victims, WKMG said, with officials saying an estimated 1,000 people went to the club overnight to pay their respects.
Three other memorial services will be held Monday.
Orlando City, Orange County and Pulse declared June 12 “Orlando United Day” and many city landmarks have been lit up in rainbow colors, including the Lake Eola Park fountain, Orange County Convention Center, History Center and the Orlando Eye.