Pulse Nightclub Site

AP Photo/John Raoux, File

Survivors, Families Mourn On Second Anniversary Of Pulse Nightclub Shooting

June 12, 2018 - 5:43 pm
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ORLANDO, Fla. (WCBS 880/AP) -- Survivors and victims’ families gathered Tuesday in Orlando to commemorate the second anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre.

On June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed at the gay nightclub. CBS News Correspondent Peter King said the day began with a private memorial at the Pulse site where men and women with angel wings guarded the perimeter.

“Barbara Poma spoke – she is the owner of the Pulse nightclub – and spoke about how perhaps we don’t always have the words to help even though we really want to help. We heard from the county and the city mayor and from other people,” King said, “and also, interestingly enough, it included a Spanish and English version of, ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow,’ which is considered to so many a song of hope. And the double meaning today – not just hope for the survivors and the living, but a tribute to those who went over the rainbow, if you will, and were killed two years ago today.”

There was also a second memorial at a church in downtown Toronto, where a bell rang 49 times and survivors of two of the victims read the victims’ names at each ringing.

King said the memorial set up at the Pulse site is not meant to be permanent, but it is “beyond makeshift.”

“They’ve done a beautiful job, and this is still considered interim, but beautifully, professionally mounted photographs, plaques. People can go inside – there is green space where they can just sit and reflect. There is some multimedia there where you can sign an electronic guestbook; you can learn about the people who were part of what happened that night; the people who died – find out a little bit about the victims,” he said.

Ahead of the commemoration, some survivors and victims' relatives have sued the Orlando Police Department and the owners of the nightclub.

The federal lawsuit against the police and city of Orlando was filed last Thursday and it claims police officers should have acted more aggressively to stop the shooter. The state lawsuit against Pulse owners Barbara and Rosario Poma was filed Friday and it says the nightclub had inadequate security.

Both lawsuits were filed by plaintiff attorneys based in Philadelphia and Michigan.

The Pomas said in a statement that they hadn't seen the lawsuit and that the focus this week should be on healing.

"We ask that everyone keep the focus where it belongs as we prepare for this Remembrance Week," the Pomas said.

In a statement, the Orlando Police Department said their officers and other law enforcement officers did everything they could to save as many lives as possible.

In the run-up to the anniversary, the parents of murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard spoke in Orlando, a "rainbow run" was held in a park near the nightclub, and a play was produced based on the interviews of Pulse survivors and those around the world who responded to the tragedy. Meanwhile, 49 ribbons were hung outside City Hall, an exhibit on the tragedy was held at the Orange County History Center, while a rainbow flag was hung from the Orange County Administration building.

The recent lawsuits mark a departure for some of the survivors and victims' relatives since they are directed at the law enforcement response and the facility where the massacre took place.

Previous lawsuits by Pulse survivors and victims' families were aimed at social media companies and the security company where gunman Omar Mateen was employed. The social media lawsuit claimed Mateen was radicalized by through propaganda found on social media and the employer lawsuit claimed the security firm knew Mateen was mentally unstable but allowed him to carry a gun on the job as a security guard.

Mateen was killed at the nightclub in a shootout with police officers. Earlier this year, his wife was acquitted of helping to plot the attack and lying to the FBI afterward.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)