Survivors of the Pulse massacre took center stage at the 128th Rose Parade.
Victor Baez Febo and Isaiah Henderson waved to the cheering crowd Monday at the annual New Years Day celebration in Pasadena, Calif. They rode on a float commissioned by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Impulse Group United, which honored the 49 victims and dozens of survivors of last year's shooting at the Pulse Nightclub.
Survivor Jahqui Sevilla and Pulse's owner Barbara Poma were also on the float, according to a press release from AHF. Other riders — who had aided in Orlando's healing and recovery — included Patty Sheehan, an out city commissioner of the Florida city, case worker and HIV counselor Joel Morales, and Impulse Group Orlando's president Corey Lyons and vice president Gustavo Marrero.
The float, titled "To Honor and Remember Orlando" and created by Fiesta Parade Floats of Irwindale, featured a large dove as a symbol of peace; twice throughout the march, 49 live doves were released in honor of the victims. A rainbow served as a symbol of the LGBT community. Real-life messages of sorrow and solidarity were also tied to a "tree of life."
Lyons said that while the float honored the dead, it also spoke to the struggles yet to come for the living in the fight for equality.
“We must not lose sight of the fact that this beautiful float also serves as a solemn and sacred reminder to millions of parade viewers around the world that the stigma and discrimination that led to this attack are not over — the fight goes on, and we must be vigilant in speaking out and speaking out against such bigotry, hatred and injustice,” said Lyons.
The Rose Parade presented by Honda, whose theme this year was "Echoes of Success," honored AHF with its Lathrop K. Leishman prize for "most beautiful noncommercial float." The 5.5-mile march is usually held on January 1, yet a "never on a Sunday" tradition postponed the festivites one day this year.
Watch the parade here from KTLA, a local CW affiliate. The Pulse float and dove release can be viewed at around 10:16.