The 49 victims who died in a gay nightclub shooting in Florida are being honored this week with a community run, a museum exhibit, a mass yoga session, a gay chorus performance and a street dance party.
Dozens of shooting survivors, family members and first responders were invited to a ceremony Saturday at the grounds of the Pulse nightclub south of downtown Orlando. The site has been converted into an interim memorial with photographs of the victims and rainbow-colored flowers and mementos.
Others were being invited to watch the ceremony via a livestream feed on giant screens in front of a performing arts center in downtown Orlando.
“Five years ago, 49 people, mostly Latinx, Black and LGBTQ, were killed in a horrific act of violence at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Alfonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, a gay rights advocacy group “53 others were injured and countless others changed forever by seeing hatred or losing a loved one,” he said.
“As we hear the stories of those who were murdered, we catch glimpses of 49 unreal futures, knowing no words what their families have lost, what our community has lost: Dear parents, dear companions, dear co-workers, dear children or dear friends.”
Gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 victims in a nightclub during a three-hour standoff with law enforcement on June 12, 2016. He was eventually killed by the SWAT team members. Mateen pledged loyalty to Islamic State in talks with hostage negotiators and 911 operators during the standoff.
At the time, the Pulse massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. However, the following year another mass shooting along the Las Vegas Strip became the deadliest when 58 people were killed.
Pulse owner Barbara Poma has founded a non-profit with the goal of opening a permanent memorial and museum in the nightclub’s neighborhood. US senators this week passed a bill designating the site of the former nightclub as a national monument. The measure now goes to President Joe Biden’s table for approval.
Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was criticized for cutting funding that included funding earmarked for mental health programming to support Pulse Survivors, housing for LGBTQ youth and the LGBTQ Community Center in Orlando. .
“Some of Central Florida’s most vulnerable citizens rely on Center Orlando to provide life-saving services such as case management, navigation, and critical mental health counseling,” George Wallace, executive director of the LGBT+ Center Orlando, said last week.