ORLANDO, Fla. - People of different races, genders, ages, and orientations came together near Downtown Orlando on Friday to mark four years since the deadly attack at the Pulse Nightclub. Many of the people there say they remembered the attack like it happened yesterday.
“Pulse was my second home, a safe haven for me. I had many wonderful nights here,” said Whitney Trimble, who was there to pay her respects.
Trimble danced at the club in the days before the attack. She said it was a place where everyone felt like they belonged.
“The tragedy that happened four years ago, it really hits some, so just wanted to pay my respects.”
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She wasn’t alone. Mourners and well-wishers surrounded the site all day, placing flowers and saying prayers. This day was a lot different though. Visitors got their temperatures checked before entering and stood apart from each other because of the risk of COVID-19.
Maria Chau said it was worth the extra effort to be there.
“Remember their lives and be present and understand it's importance, and again just send my love and light to them and their families,” Chau said.
Chau also hung out at Pulse in the days before the killings. Holding her young nephew, she said she was trying to make it a better world for his generation.
“A safe world,” she said, “never having to worry about what could happen to him simply because of his lifestyle, what he chooses to believe in, who he chooses to love, or anything like that.”
Some though, couldn’t bring themselves to join the crowd. Ricardo Negron escaped out a back exit when the shooting started. He and strangers stuck together to make it out alive.
“We really didn't know each other but kind of made a group out, and someone who was there, we hadn't even met,” Negron recalled, “but he offered to take a few of us home because our cars were with the valet, impossible to reach.”
But Negron said he appreciated the support.
“You see people on social media sharing, wanting to be involved, and reaching out. It can get a little overwhelming but it's nice to know there's still a lot of support for the community out there.”
Survivor Brandon Wolf also kept away from Pulse, saying it was too painful.
“I would be lying if I didn't say this is the hardest day of the year, every year. June 12, 2016, was the hardest day of my life,” he said.
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Wolf says what happened that day, though, changed the course of his life.
“It's what has shaped the last four years of my life. Although on June 11 I couldn't have imagined being an advocate every single day for a living, now I can't imagine doing anything else.”
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