The city of Orlando plans to purchase Pulse nightclub, the site of the 2016 Pulse shooting, still the deadliest attack on LGBTQ+ Americans in history. The Orlando City Council reportedly will offer $2 million for the club and plans to use the site as a memorial.
“Creating a memorial to the victims of the Pulse tragedy has been a challenging endeavor, with the current plan for the memorial to be built somewhere besides the actual Pulse site,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said in a statement.
“We recently had the opportunity to meet with and listen to some of the family members of the victims, as well as survivors. They expressed their strong desire for a lasting memorial to be located on the Pulse site. The hurt and pain they shared — now more than seven years since the tragedy — only solidified our belief that the 49 angels deserve a permanent memorial on the Pulse site.”
The mass shooting happened more than seven years ago on June 12, 2016. It was Latin night, and most of the 49 deceased were Latinx and/or queer. The shooter, Omar Mateen, had pledged allegiance to ISIS and was killed in a standoff with the police the night of the massacre.
Brandon Wolf was at Pulse that night and survived the shooting. He now works at the Human Rights Campaign. “It’s past time to create a permanent space created for and by the community where people can grieve, reflect, and honor those stolen,” he told The Advocate.
The plans to make Pulse nightclub a memorial haven’t been easy. The owner of Pulse, Barbara Poma, pulled out of talks in 2016 to sell the club to the city for $2.25 million. In 2017, Poma helped to create the onePULSE foundation and planned for a museum at the club and for a scholarship fund. Months later, she pulled out of those plans as well.
“The onePULSE Foundation Board of Trustees found it no longer appropriate to pay the Pomas for the nightclub property after recently discovering that insurance proceeds paid off debt for the nightclub and asked for a full donation from them and their business partner, Michael Panaggio,” onePulse Foundation spokesperson Scott Bowman told the Orlando NBC affiliate in May.
Poma still has to agree to the city’s $2 million offer, which is less than the offer given in 2016.
“I don’t care who did what to whom anymore,” Sheehan said, “and neither does the mayor. We have families and survivors who deserve to have a respectful memorial.”
Sheehan says that the city plans for a simple memorial to honor the victims– not a museum.
“Families want something where their kids died, and that’s appropriate.”
The Advocate spoke to survivors who are happy to see that the memorial will finally come to fruition, but as disappointed that the Poma family has taken this long, and that they will profit.
“Well, I am glad and pleased that something is going to be done finally; can’t depend on Barbara anymore as well as the onePulse Foundation,” Orlando Torres told The Advocate. “It’s been seven years too long, going on eight years. Hopefully, the city of Orlando can build the memorial soon. Barbara should have sold it from the beginning, and that third party would have been paid off a long time ago!”
Chris Hansen told The Advocate,”The city shouldn’t have to purchase the land from [The Pomas], because the corruption alone is enough to acquire the land where 49 lives were stolen from ever living their truth. More than 53 were injured for just having fun, and about 200+ others were lucky enough to have made it out of our unforgettable and horrifying rage against our LGBTQIA+ and QLatinx Community. How dare the Pomas think, believe, and continue to collect on our grief, pain, and torment. How dare they enrich their lives and vacation the world on funds that should be available to help gain a better life for us surviving Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting victims and families. Our 49 beloved angels deserve to not be forgotten and have a permanent dancing place for their loved ones, friends, and our community to go to and share tribute, love, comfort, support, and mourn. Our 49 beloved angels didn’t ask to be violently broadcast on the payroll of the Poma legacy! We have waited far too long for this opportunity to happen and for the right thing to be done have been done, but enough is enough. … Our lives are not like an arcade; game over!”