Orlando, Florida — This weekend, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is hosting games in Orlando, where the Pulse Nightclub attacks nine months ago still linger in the shadow of the city. The attacks that killed 49 people at the gay nightclub hit home for two Orlando natives playing this week.

“I was just devastated. It really didn’t hit me until the day after, watching the news, seeing the news cameras on the street where I’ve driven up and down my whole life,” University of Florida forward Schuyler Rimmer said about the aftermath of the shooting. Rimmer said Pulse was close to his house and he drove by it every day on the way to school.

Will Miles, a redshirt freshman for Florida State, grew up less than a mile from Pulse and was shocked when he heard the news. “It’s just crazy because you’d never guess Orlando,” said Miles, who said he checked to make sure none of his friends were in Pulse that night.

Rimmer, with calls himself an ally of the LGBT community, also described how proud of the city was to have a place like Pulse.

“Being from Orlando, I’d say it’s a pretty open community. It’s very accepting of a lot of different people and it was something we were proud of as a community that there was a place for people that identified as gay or lesbian to go express themselves,” Rimmer said.

Miles and Rimmer also spoke about how the community responded to Pulse and came together. Rimmer had friends who volunteered at emergency rooms while he was away at summer school in Gainesville. Both players say that holding events like a basketball tournament are beneficial for the city and can help its healing process.

“I was in town when the Pulse nightclub attacks happened and I saw how devastating they were, but I watched how the community gathered around and brought the community up,” Miles said.

As a freshman at Central Florida, where these games are being played, I have discovered that Orlando is a fantastic place to host an event like March Madness because of the very accepting community. Miles and Rimmer are two of many examples of people that believe in treating everyone the same.

Jeremy Brener is a student at the University of Central Florida who writes for Outsports. He can be reached via email ([email protected]) and followed on Twitter.