Orlando officials rallied this morning around the rainbow flag and remembered the 49 victims of the Pulse shooting that occurred this day last year.
As the Orlando Gay Chorus prepared to sing at a midday vigil at Pulse, which has been closed since the attack, a ceremony was held Monday morning in front of the Orange County Administration Center in downtown Orlando and marked the first Orlando United Day. There, a segment of the Sea-to-Sea Rainbow Flag, sewn by late flag maker Gilbert Baker and once draped across the entirety of Key West, Fla., was unfurled on the outside of the building.
"I can tell you candidly 10 years ago we would never be able to fly this flag or we would not be able to do it without a flood of outrage," Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said.
The decision to fly the flag Monday incited one phone call of complaint in a community of 1.3 million, Jacobs said, and two protestors showed up to protest the government's "complicity" in "scandal" by flying the flag, but the move widely was applauded in the Orlando area. Mark Ebonhoch, executive director of LoveIsLove Key West and the steward of the flag in recent years, lost his friend Eddie Sotomayor Jr. in the attack last year. He believed Baker would be honored to see the flag fly in Orlando, and noted Baker's satisfaction last year when the flag flew days after the attack.
At a vigil midday, Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said that while terrorists aim to damage American society, the attack last year, which ISIS claimed credit for, only served to make it stronger. "Isn't it interesting that it had the opposite effect?" he said at the vigil. "It brought us together in unity and love."
Those comments were echoed by U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a Democrat representing the Orlando area. "We will always be Orlando Strong," she said. "Hate is not welcome and will never be."
[facebook https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FTheAdvocate%2Fvideos%2F10155013254913855%2F&show_text=0&width=560 expand=1 site_id=25879312]