Seven hard days after it became the site of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Orlando remembered the fallen Sunday with pealing church bells and — from normally raucous nightclubs to Disney World — moments of silence.
An estimated 20,000 people prepared for an early evening vigil at Lake Eola Park for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, preceded by a memorial service at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke. Mourners planned to march from the church to the lakeside park, carrying flowers, candles and messages of peace.
Several churches held memorial services during the day. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, speaking at First Baptist Church, one of the area’s largest churches, said the attacks targeted “two very vulnerable populations” — meaning gays and Latinos.
People prayed on the street and left balloons, flowers, pictures and posters to honor all 49 victims. Some visited a row of 49 white wood crosses made by a retired carpenter from Illinois; others waited in line at Realm Tattoos for a “One Pulse” tattoo.
The tattoos were free, but people were encouraged to leave a donation for the victims.
Antaeus Schembri was there Saturday. He said he got a tattoo on his forearm to "show support to the city that I love."
Meanwhile, the investigation continued into why Omar Mateen, 29, invaded the gay nightclub and opened fire around 2 a.m. on June 12, killing 49 and wounding 53 before being killed by police who stormed the building. He also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group in a 911 call during the attack.
Eighteen of the wounded victims remained hospitalized Sunday. Four were in critical condition, two were listed as guarded and 12 as stable.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Sunday that the FBI would release a partial transcript of three conversations between Mateen and Orlando police negotiators that took place while the gunman was inside the club.
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Lynch said authorities hope to create a profile of Mateen to help prevent a similar disaster: “We are going back and learning everything we can about this killer, about his contacts, people who may have known him or seen him.’’ On Tuesday she’ll go to Orlando to meet investigators.
Lynch said a key goal of the investigation was to determine why Mateen apparently targeted the LGBTQ community. She declined to say if a federal grand jury was likely to charge Mateen's second wife, Noor Salman, who officials say knew her husband planned the attack.
Investigators are trying to learn more not just about Mateen, but also about others who knew him, including members of the mosque he attended.
Omar Saleh, a lawyer for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said he sat in on a half-hour interview Friday with a man who has worshiped at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, which Mateen also attended.
Sunday's observances of a week's passage since the attack began when the day was young. The music stopped around 2 a.m. at many of the area's nightclubs to mark the moment when the killing began.
Around midnight, after Disney World's usual “Kiss Goodnight’’ announcement, park workers and visitors gathered to pay tribute to the victims. They held glow sticks, smartphones and artificial candles in the air during a moment of silence.
Participants in the observance, which was not organized by the theme park, arranged the glow sticks into a rainbow heart that rested at the base of Disney’s Cinderella Castle.
They also gathered for photos in front of an 11-by-7-foot rainbow flag with a black heart that showed a pulse beat in its center, and they made heart symbols with their hands.
One of the Pulse victims, Jerald Wright, worked in a store at the park.
Orlando’s professional soccer team honored the victims Saturday night by blocking off 49 stadium seats with rainbow-colored balloons.
Players at the MLS game between Orlando City and the San Jose Earthquakes wore rainbow-colored socks and sweatbands; fans waved rainbow flags (in addition to the usual ones of players’ home countries). Play was stopped at the 49th minute for a moment of silence, and fans wearing colored shirts created a rainbow in the stands.
The game ended in a tie.
Contributing: Chris Bonanno, Florida Today