ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Across central Florida, the 49 victims killed and dozens more survivors of the massacre at a gay-friendly nightclub were remembered with the unveiling of a 44-foot (13.4-meter) -wide mural, the ringing of church bells and an overnight vigil at the site of the Pulse club on Monday, the seventh anniversary of the tragedy.
Several people gathered at the site of the Pulse nightclub near downtown Orlando at 2 a.m. Monday, around the time that gunman Omar Mateen opened fire in 2016, leaving 49 people dead and 53 wounded. At the time, it was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, but that number was surpassed the next year when 58 people were killed, and more than 850 were injured among a crowd of 22,000 at a country music festival in Las Vegas.
Mateen was killed after a three-hour standoff by SWAT team members. He had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
At the Orlando Museum of Art, a colourful, 44-foot-by-18-foot (13.4 meters by 5.5 meters) mural depicting the victims was unveiled. In the afternoon, a downtown church was planning to ring its church bells 49 times in what has become an annual tradition.
“After seven years, our hearts remain broken from the senseless act of violence that took the lives of 49 innocent people and injured so many others,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said. “It is comforting to know that our community has not forgotten the pain and suffering of the families and survivors, for it is the only way that love will prevail over hate.”