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In Photos: Thousands Mourn Victims of Gay Club Massacre at Candlelight Vigil in Orlando

"I really don't know what to feel," said one attendee. "My body is numb. There are some things I have not been able to digest yet."
Photo de John Taggart/EPA

Thousands of people stood for a moment of silence in downtown Orlando on Monday night, holding candles and remembering the dozens of people who were killed over the weekend in a targeted attack on a popular gay dance club in the city. The silence was broken by church bells, which tolled 49 times, once for each victim of the massacre.

Some attendees at the candlelight vigil wore t-shirts adorned with rainbows and the faces of loved ones who were lost in the rampage early Sunday morning at Pulse nightclub. Others held up posters with messages like, "One Pulse, RIP to These Amazing Beautiful Souls."


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Wilma Lozano and Jason Primer were both wearing matching white t-shirts, which they had had silkscreened with a photo of Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado and his boyfriend Leroy Valentin Rodriguez, who were both killed in the attack. Another 53 people were wounded.

"He was an amazing person," Lozano said of Rosado. "He [was] always there for you. He had a big heart."

Photo by John Taggart/EPA

Photo by John Taggart/EPA

Lozano said she met Rosado ten years ago, not long after she had moved from Puerto Rico to Orlando. They connected over their shared love of Latin music, and Pulse became their regular haunt.

"Whenever we needed to salsa the night away, we would just go," Lozano said.

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Sunday's attack occurred on one of the club's Latin nights. Authorities say the gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State during the shooting spree, but he also frequented the club and was active on gay dating apps. He opened fire inside the club at around 2am, and took several hostages before members of a police SWAT team killed him in a shootout just before 6am.

Photo by Francisco Alvarado/VICE News

Primer said he and a friend were on their way to Pulse on the night of the shooting. He said they encountered police barricades and heard gunshots as they turned around to go home.

"After that, we ran for the first hospital… to try to find our loved ones," he said. "I really don't know what to feel. My body is numb. There are some things I have not been able to digest yet."


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The vigil also attracted members of gun control advocacy groups, including the local chapter of Moms Demand Action. The organization's members held up bright orange signs with the message: "We Can Stop Gun Violence."

"We are out here supporting the Latino community and the LGBTQ community," said Andrea Halperin, an action leader with the group. "We wanted to make our presence known and that we are not going to stand for this kind of violence and hatred anymore."

Photo by Francisco Alvarado/VICE News

Photo by Francisco Alvarado/VICE News

Photo by John Taggart/EPA

Photo by John Taggart/EPA

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen

Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness