In many ways, Ramses Tinoco never has left Pulse. The Orlando man lost seven friends in the shooting -- not to mention Chris Brodman, who died of a heart condition a few months later -- and every day since then, he has revisited the site. But the tragedy of that evening in another way set him free.
"To go on national television and tell them I was gay," he recalled, "that was tough." His is a native of Honduras, and not everyone in his family knew then he was gay, but with the level of attention from the shooting, he knew there would be no more secrets once he went on air. But he couldn't imagine his family finding out after he died. "I woke up and said why am I denying something?" he said. "If I was six feet under now, everybody wouldn't know what happened."
Ramses could be seen at the club again Monday, along with hundreds of others at a midday vigil honoring the 49 killed in the mass shooting one year prior. The event was among several of the Orlando United Day events intended to showcase how the community had been healed, not destroyed, by the hate crime and terrorist attack.
Chi Ortiz also came out to honor lost friends and could be found beside pictures of Amanda Alvear and Mercedes Flores, saying, "I never get to see their voices again or laugh and joke around." At the site for Pulse, she wondered if any memorial set up could ever make the site feel special again. "It's not going to be the same for me."
But Bernadette Cruz, whose son Peter Gonzale-Cruz died in the attack, said the entire community had in fact changed because of the attack. "It has been better now," she said through a friend translating from Spanish. "People can come out and be free. They have now opened their doors to be themselves."
Belinnette Ocasio Capo lost her brother, Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, in the massacre, but now she's pregnant with a boy who she plans to name Jomar in his uncle's honor. "People are more understanding of everything now," she said. Her brother had girlfriends, and the family didn't know any reason why he would be in the club besides it being Latin Night. In Orlando, she's seen a community come together in a refreshing way that helped the family during a confusing period. "We've gained so many angels in our lives."
Minerva Honorato, whose husband, Miguel, had been with friends and died in the attack, has had to raise three children on her own the past year. She showed up with her husband's parents, Mexican immigrants, who carried a picture of their son and lit candles at Pulse. "In the middle of so much ugliness and terror and so much sadness, it's nice to see all of this," she said of the vigil and surrounding activities.
But there's still room for the community to grow, said survivor Marcus Godden. He lost friends including Shane Tomlinson. "It's still a mess," he said. "You see connections of us trying to come together, but then some that don't want us to come together and to stay divided."