ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Three years after a gunman massacred 49 people and wounded many others at a gay nightclub in central Florida, the anniversary was being observed Wednesday with official proclamations and somber memorial gatherings.
In a proclamation, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered state flags to be lowered to half staff and asked Floridians to pause to remember the victims of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
And in the U.S. Senate, Florida’s two Republican U.S. senators introduced a resolution honoring the 49 club-goers who were killed on Latin night. The resolution, which passed with unanimous consent, noted that the massacre was “an attack on LGBTQ community, the Hispanic community, the city of Orlando, the state of Florida and the United States.”
Gunman Omar Mateen was killed after a three-hour standoff by SWAT team members. He had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. At the time, the Pulse massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. However, another mass shooting the following year along the Las Vegas Strip became the deadliest when 58 people were killed.
Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orange County criticized the Republican governor for not mentioning in his proclamation that the attack was on the gay community. She called the proclamation, “straight-washed.”
DeSantis later tweeted that the state mourns the loss of life from the attack that “targeted the LGBTQ and Hispanic community, and Florida as a whole.”
After the governor’s tweet, Eskmani wrote on Twitter, “Advocacy matters.”
In Orlando, churches were ringing bells 49 times at noon and a Wednesday night memorial service was planned outside the Pulse nightclub, which has been closed since the shooting in June 2016.
Some survivors and friends gathered at the club shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday to mark the exact time the shooting started.
Pulse owner Barbara Poma has established a nonprofit to open a memorial and museum at the site. About $14 million has been raised for the $50 million project. Six design firms have been selected as finalists and the winner will be chosen in the fall. The permanent memorial and museum are scheduled to open in 2022.