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  • Singers from the Orlando Gay Chorus take the stage to...

    Singers from the Orlando Gay Chorus take the stage to perform “Por Qué Cantamos” during a remembrance ceremony honoring those killed in the Pulse massacre eight years ago, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

  • The Reading of the 49 Names of those killed in...

    The Reading of the 49 Names of those killed in the Pulse massacre eight years ago commences during a remembrance ceremony at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, night June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

  • Dancers perform an interpretative dance with electric candles during the...

    Dancers perform an interpretative dance with electric candles during the remembrance ceremony honoring those killed in the Pulse massacre 8 years ago, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, night June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

  • Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer delivers remarks during a remembrance ceremony...

    Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer delivers remarks during a remembrance ceremony honoring those killed at Pulse eight years ago, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

  • Dancers perform an interpretative dance during the remembrance ceremony honoring...

    Dancers perform an interpretative dance during the remembrance ceremony honoring those killed in the Pulse massacre 8 years ago, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

  • Singers from the Orlando Gay Chorus take the stage to...

    Singers from the Orlando Gay Chorus take the stage to perform “Por Qué Cantamos” during a remembrance ceremony honoring those killed in the Pulse massacre eight years ago, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, Fla. Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

  • A guest writes a message on a board during the...

    A guest writes a message on a board during the remembrance ceremony honoring those killed in the Pulse massacre eight years ago, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, Fla. Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

  • Siclaly Santiago-Leon —whose cousin was killed in the Pulse mass...

    Siclaly Santiago-Leon —whose cousin was killed in the Pulse mass shooting — delivers remarks during a remembrance ceremony honoring those killed at Pulse eight years ago, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

  • Dancers perform an interpretative dance during the remembrance ceremony honoring...

    Dancers perform an interpretative dance during the remembrance ceremony honoring those killed in the Pulse massacre 8 years ago, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

  • A cellist from the Central Florida Community Arts performs during...

    A cellist from the Central Florida Community Arts performs during a remembrance ceremony honoring those killed in the Pulse massacre 8 years ago, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

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Eight years after one of the deadliest shootings on U.S. soil struck Pulse nightclub in Orlando, keeping memories of the 49 killed that night alive was the focus of families and survivors gathered Wednesday evening.

Siclaly Santiago-Leon said their memory was most important. She’s the cousin of Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, who was slain in the attack on the LGBTQ safe haven.

“One of the greatest heartaches for a grieving person can be the fear that their loved ones will be forgotten,” Santiago-Leon said. “As family members of the 49 angels, we have vowed to never let that happen.”

The Pulse Remembrance Ceremony at Steinmetz Hall capped a day of events ranging from Greenwood Cemetery to the at First United Methodist Church downtown.

It came as city officials hope to kickstart efforts to build a permanent memorial at the nightclub site — amid some distrust in the latest effort following a failed try by the onePulse Foundation.

“I understand that all that has transpired over the last year has been especially difficult for some families and survivors … And while I know that a renewed effort to create a memorial won’t necessarily make those feelings go away, or erase the pain that the tragedy left behind, my hope is that we can work together to finally turn the desire for a permanent memorial at the Pulse site into a reality,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said.

“My hope is that together we can create a memorial where we can grieve, where we can reflect and most importantly, where we can honor the 49 angels and survivors each and every day.”

Last week, applications opened to join an advisory board that will meet monthly starting in July in hopes of ironing out a design for the memorial — which Dyer hopes will be built by the end of his mayoral term at the end of 2027.

The application will be available until June 23 at .

Dancers perform an interpretative dance with electric candles during the remembrance ceremony honoring those killed in the Pulse massacre eight years ago, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)
Dancers perform an interpretative dance with electric candles during the remembrance ceremony honoring those killed in the Pulse massacre eight years ago, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

The now-dissolved nonprofit, formed by owner of the nightclub Barbara Poma, had extravagant plans to construct a memorial and museum, though ultimately it wasn’t able to fundraise close to the amount of money needed to do so.

Last year, the city purchased the nightclub from the Poma family for $2 million and formally took over memorial efforts — and has said it won’t pursue the museum.

In remembering the victims Wednesday afternoon, about 80 gathered at First United Methodist Church for the reading of the victims’ names — and rang church bells in their honor.

The evening ceremony included prayer, a video presentation dedicated to the victims, as well as performances by the Orlando Gay Chorus.

In a prayer shared by the Rev. José Rodriguez, of the Episcopal Churches of Christ the King and Jesus de Nazaret, he noted the 49 were reflective of the city where they danced eight years prior.

“We honor the daughters and sons of Borinquen, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Africa and Europe,” he said. “Each person, touched by Light and Life, the source of love, courage and resilience.”

President Joe Biden acknowledged the solemn date in a tweet Wednesday evening.

“Eight years since the shooting at Pulse, I mourn the 49 souls stolen from us in the deadliest attack on the LGBTQI+ community in our history. It’s on us to create a world where LGBTQI+ folks are safe — and where we do more than just remember the victims of gun violence, but act,” his account said.

rygillespie@orlandosentinel.com

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