ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) – The victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre are being remembered on Monday, one year after their lives were cut short during the worst shooting in recent U.S. history.
Survivors, family members, community members and first responders gathered at the nightclub where the tragedy unfolded last June, to pay their respects to the 49 people killed.
Although the site of the attack brings painful memories to some, it has transformed into a symbol of love and solidarity for many in the Orlando community.
One-by-one, names of the 49 victims were read as tears poured down the faces of hundreds who attended the memorial.
The ceremony also honored 50 others who were wounded that terrifying night, many of whom are still coping with what happened.
Orlando Police Officer Alison Clarke was one of the officers who responded to the shooting. She tells us she’s still haunted by memories of that night.
“I’ve worked off-duty at Pulse before. I’ve also been a patron,” said Officer Clarke. “I just have an understanding that I’m never going to be the same, never going to be who I was on June 11, last year.”
But with each passing day, she gains more strength, and Clarke, along with many others, are using today as a day of reflection and healing.
“Being able to be here today, and go to the different events is actually very healing, and very helpful for me,” Clarke continued.
It isn’t easy for Jeff Xavier to visit the place where he nearly lost his life one year ago.
“I did not expect to be here a year later. I thought I would still be in the hospital or in a wheelchair,” he told News Channel 8.
Xavier was shot four times that night when the gunman opened fire inside a bathroom. “I bled out for over three hours,” he said.
He has been under the knife multiple times in the last year, and like many others, he almost didn’t make it.
It took the blood of more than 40 people to save his life.
He is thankful they could donate the blood to keep him alive, physically and mentally.
“It’s kind of emotional, you know, it’s a good thing though. As a blood receiver, I received blood from over 40 donors, and my blood is a rare type So for them to have that much in stock at that time it was pretty surprising,” Xavier said.
For many other survivors Xavier knows, the memories of that night are just too raw and painful; they couldn’t attend the service.
“Some don’t want to come, or can’t come, and I want to show my support in their honor as well. I know some of them just can’t, it’s just too much for them,” he said.
But Xavier looks at the memorial as a way to give back, to tell his stories, and to encourage others to save a life.
“They are our heroes. Without that blood I would not have made it,” Xavier said.
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