Orlando turning to love despite struggling with grief

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Monday, June 13, 2016
Orlando turns to love despite struggling with grief
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Many people in Orlando came together to honor and mourn the victims

ORLANDO (WTVD) -- Although there was an overwhelming sadness for hundreds lined up at a blood bank in Orlando following the mass shootings, there was also a sense of determination.

Originally thousands showed up to one blood bank less than a mile from where the worst mass shooting in U.S. history occurred early Sunday morning. 50 people were killed and 53 were injured in the shooting at the gay nightclub.

Read more about the shooting.

The people showed up at the blood bank to support the victims and help in any way they could.

The line was so long that staffers at the facility had to turn away people. The hundreds in line were able to keep their places, although wait times were up to 4 or 5 hours.

"No matter how long the line is, we all just need to put our part into what needs to happen," one man told ABC11. "Because that could have been you or me in there, in the shooting."

One woman came as soon as a family member told her of the blood bank's need.

"I was actually at church when my son texted me. He's a medical student in Miami," Mary Ojeda explained. "He said 'the ORMC is low on blood mom, you need to tell the church. Because love needs to step up.'"

Others in the crowd told ABC11 they want to reject the shooter's act of hate and terror, and turn it into an act of love, embracing the LGBT community.

In downtown Orlando Sunday night, 50 candles were lit for the 50 people who died in the shooting. A neighborhood pub opened specifically to be a gathering place for anyone affected by what happened at Pulse nighclub.

Two people, Lewis Bennet and Taylor Knight, came to mourn. They told ABC11 they were a split decision away from being at Pulse but decided to go to another gay-friendly bar instead.

"Around 12:00 we were wondering where we're gonna go," said Bennet. "We could have easily decided to go to Pulse. We ended up going to Parliament House, but we could've been there."

He said it was difficult to think about how when he was wrapping up his night at the other club, people just a few miles down the road were losing their lives.

A GoFundMe has been set up for the victims of the shooting by Equality Florida and has raised over $1 million.