Victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting -- the worst hate crime against LGBTQ+ people in U.S. history -- will be honored tonight with a virtual service, streaming on Facebook and YouTube.
It was four years ago today that an armed man entered the Orlando nightclub, which had a largely LGBTQ+ and Latinx clientele, and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding 53. The gunman died in a shootout with police.
The onePULSE Foundation has held a remembrance ceremony on June 12 every year since then. This year's will be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pretaped ceremony, to begin streaming at 7 p.m. Eastern, will include the reading of the 49 names by family members, and remarks from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings, onePULSE Foundation Board Chair Earl Crittenden, and onePULSE Foundation Founder and CEO Barbara Poma. Orlando Poet Laureate Susan Lilley has written two original poems for survivors and first responders that will be read by each of the mayors during their comments.
Also, Orlando-raised singer, actor and Broadway star Norm Lewis and Latinx singer-songwriter, record producer, and author Yaire will both perform during the ceremony. Rev. Terri Steed Pierce and Rev. Stanley Ramos, senior pastor and associate pastor, respectively, of Joy Metropolitan Community Church, will lead the invocation.
To further mark the day, the onePULSE Foundation has made a virtual tour of the Pulse Interim Memorial available at its website. In addition, onePULSE is asking all those whose lives were affected to share their remembrances on social media using the hashtage #Wewillnotlethatewin.
"One of the special remembrances that has happened every year during the remembrance ceremony is the appearance of the rainbow over Orlando," Crittenden said in a press release. "A fitting and miraculous tribute to the 49 angels. The foundation is encouraging everyone to 'Be the Rainbow' this year and to embody the essence of love, hope, unity, acceptance, courage, and strength."
The interim memorial will be closed to the general public Friday so that families of the victims, survivors, and first responders can have the space to remember their loved ones and to reflect. onePULSE staff and volunteers will be at the site to assist them.
"We are grateful for the tremendous support of the community and would love nothing more than to have our community members join us in remembering our 49 angels, and honoring our survivors and first responders, but we must prioritize the health and safety of the public, the Pulse community, and our employees," Poma said in the release. "We ask the community to join together again, in a different way this year, as a symbol of strength and solidarity in the face of tragedy, forever proving: We will not let hate win."