Central Floridians Work Together to Memorialize the Pulse Nightclub

Orlando, Florida - Pulse Nightclub Interim Memorial north side Pulse sign with visitor message board, and east wall photographs. (Anthony Constantine / Shutterstock.com) The third anniversary of the tragic massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub has generated a joint effort on the part of the Orlando and Central Florida LGBTQ community to memorialize the events of June 12, 2016. On that fateful night, a lone shooter named Omar Mateen took the lives of 49 club patrons and injured 68 others during “Latin Night.” Mateen later swore allegiance to ISIS in a subsequent 911 call.

The community’s efforts to honor those victims have taken the shape of a permanent monument and memorial. The drive to develop the site is led by a nonprofit called the onePulse Foundation, led by Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma. She serves as executive director and CEO, according to the foundation’s site.

Presently, the nightclub is boarded up, and the site has developed into a makeshift memorial of flowers, murals, and other remembrances. It is unclear whether or not the foundation intends to preserve aspects of the original building or to design a new structure altogether. According to The Atlantic, the site will never again serve as a nightclub.

The Foundation initiated the design process by getting input from those intimately affected by the incident, including the families of survivors and victims. Advice and guidance on the monument and memorial was sought from the creators of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. In April, the onePulse Foundation held an open, two-stage international competition to design the new memorial and monument. The first stage featured a request for qualifications, and the second stage involved the actual competition.

Working with Dovetail Design, the foundation picked six studios and their teams to create concept designs for the overall project. The six firms were selected by onePulse Foundation leadership, local Orlando leadership, and architects Laurinda H. Spear, co-founder of Arquitectonica and principal of ArquitectonicaGEO, Sarah Whiting of WW Architecture, and Yolande Daniels of studioSUMO. The next steps involve showcasing the top concepts at the Orlando County Regional Historic Center in Orlando, Florida. After a juried competition, the winner will be announced in October. Each team will receive a $50,000 honorarium for meeting the Stage II requirements, once a final design is chosen, according to ArchDaily.

According to the website, the memorial will focus on the survivors, victims, and first responders.

The specific plans for the memorial have not been announced, but it will occupy an area near the site of the Pulse nightclub and its surrounding properties. The site will also feature a 30,000 square foot museum that will celebrate tolerance and inclusion. The site will also feature a community space and pedestrian walkway known as Survivors Walk. This pathway will trace the three-block journey that survivors took to the Orlando Regional Medical Center on the night of the attack, according to onePulse. The walk will also extend northward to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts where the first community vigils were held.

Presently, an Interim Pulse Nightclub Memorial is holding the space until the permanent memorial and museum are constructed. The site made its public debut on May 7 and was attended by Pulse survivors, first responders, and victims’ loved ones. The site features, exhibits, lighted benches, and a steel fence, which doubles as a place where well-wishers can leave messages and mementos. The Pulse sign is on display and a fountain badly damaged by gunfire is also on display, according to HuffPost.

In addition to the planned memorial and museum, as well as the temporary commemorative space, lawmakers are also looking for creative ways to memorialize the nightclub. Lawmakers are hard at work on HR 3094. This resolution grants a federal designation to honor the 49 lives taken, the survivors, first responders, and the entire Central Florida community. According to the announcement, the “non-National Park Service affiliated federal recognition as a National Memorial site allows for public or private grants.” This announcement was made at a press conference held at the Pulse Interim Memorial site on June 10. This effort is being led by House members Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Val Demings (D-Fla.) and Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.). The designation, the congressmembers believe, serves an important purpose: “In these times when acts of hate and violence are on the rise, we must remember our past and work to do better now and in the future.”

The new museum will cost $50 million and is slated to open in 2022. It will be free and open to the public at all hours and 365 days a year.

About the Author

Stephen G. Hall is a sections editor for The North Star. He is a historian specializing in 19th and 20th century African American and American intellectual, social and cultural history and the African Diaspora. Hall is the author of A Faithful Account of the Race: African American Historical Writing in Nineteenth-Century America and is working on a new book exploring the scholarly production of Black historians on the African Diaspora from 1885 to 1960.