49 birds appear over Orlando shooting victims memorial

49 people died in nightclub mass shooting
49 birds appear over Orlando shooting victims memorial
Posted at 10:01 PM, Jun 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-14 23:23:00-04

When we're confronted with something as tragic, as difficult to cope with, as the Orlando shooting, some of us will look for solace in the divine.

And in those moments, the little things -- ones that don't lend themselves to ready explanations -- can take on great significance.

This is the story of one such moment.

As the names of the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting were being read at a vigil in Orlando, a photographer noticed something up above: A flock of birds flying by.

She snapped a quick photo. But it wasn't until she counted the birds in her frame that she was truly surprised: There were 49.

"I then showed everyone around me and had them count," she said. "We were all stunned."

The candlelight vigil was held Monday at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. The photographer said there was a deafening silence between the pauses of the names being read and painful sobs in the crowd.

She, like many others, was mourning the loss of someone she knew when she noticed the birds.
"Seeing the birds made me feel a sense of peace about the tragedy," she said.

A spokesman for the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center said the birds were a surprise to them as well. He said the center didn't release the birds during the vigil.

About 60 miles away at a separate vigil in Lakeland, Florida, 49 doves were released. But the birds in the picture appear to be black.

Where the birds came from is unknown.

The photographer said she would like to remain anonymous, because she would rather people be focused on the victims of the tragedy.

"Who took the photo is not as important as what is in it," she said. "May everyone find healing and peace."
She posted the photo on her Facebook page, where it was quickly shared thousands of times.
In her post, she wrote: "There were 49 birds, my friends. The fallen were with us tonight."

Many who responded appeared to have been as taken by the photo as she.

"I noticed those birds myself and even told my niece look at those birds," one person commented.
"We are, each of us, angels, but with one wing. We may only fly by embracing each other," another person posted.

CNN's Justin Lear contributed to the report.