ORLANDO (CBSMiami) – Monday marks the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Forty-nine people were killed by gunman Omar Mateen who opened fire after declaring his allegiance to the Islamic State. More than 50 others were injured before Mateen was shot and killed by police.
A group of mothers, who lost their children in the shooting, say they could never have predicted how their worlds would collide. In the past year, they’ve built a special bond in the memory of those they’ve lost.
“Our kids are angels, they put us together,” said Mayra Alvear.
The women formed a support group in the wake of the shooting when each of their children went out for a night of fun and never came home.
Alvear’s daughter Amanda was just 25-years-old.
“She was a leader, she knew where she was going, all her plans are shattered. They were taken away from her, they were taken away from us,” said Alvear.
In the months since the attack, Orlando has united, channeling pain into acts of love and kindness.
“You know what, you can’t destroy the human condition and heart and love. You can’t. That is the lesson of Orlando,” said Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan.
“On this solemn anniversary of the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub, my heart is with the victims, their loved ones, the survivors, and the entire Orlando community. We stand with all our LGBTQ brothers and sisters as we still grieve over this unspeakable tragedy that took 49 wonderful souls from us. Yet out of this act of evil, whether it was those who stood lines for blood banks or massive crowds at candlelight vigils, we saw how love will always conquer hate,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a statement.
For the mothers, their weekly get-togethers are met with laughter and, more often, tears. Sharing their stories isn’t easy, but it’s one of the few things that have helped these women move forward.
“We were strangers before, but we are family now, totally,” said Alvear.
Families and friends of those who died will remember them in a series of services throughout the day on Monday. Church bells throughout Orlando will ring 49 times at noon. Governor Rick Scott has ordered that flags around the state be flown at half-staff in remembrance.