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Orlando Takes Charge of Rebooted Pulse Memorial Planning

Pulse Nightclub Orlando Florida Memorial Site
Image: Shutterstock

The memorial will be dedicated to the 49 people killed in the massacre at Pulse nightclub. The shift marks less a torch passing and more a takeover following a year of controversy over the management of the planning.

The City of Orlando will formally take the lead in any fundraising and initiatives to establish a Pulse memorial.

The onePULSE Foundation, a nonprofit that in November announced its dissolution, sent out a final email to supporters officially handing the reins on the project to the city. The Orlando City Council voted a month prior to buy the property housing the former Pulse nightclub, a gay bar where a gunman in 2016 killed 49 people before dying in a shootout with police.

“A few weeks ago, the city of Orlando took ownership of the Pulse site, with a goal of creating a permanent memorial for the 49 angels taken on June 12, 2016,” the onePULSE Foundation email reads. “Since then, Mayor (Buddy) Dyer has met with members of the onePULSE Foundation Board to understand the impacts of the organization’s dissolution and learn more about the work done to date on the memorial. The board agreed to share memorial design work and provided an overview of its initiatives beyond the memorial.”

It goes on to say the city made clear it will lead the process of planning a memorial independently, and will establish the new Orlando United Pulse Memorial Fund for any future fundraising.

The shift marks less a torch passing and more a takeover following a year of controversy over the management of the foundation. Set up shortly after the 2016 shooting, the foundation had plans to establish a permanent museum at the property, with Pulse owner Barbara Poma serving as its executive director. But Poma and the foundation parted company earlier this year amid tension over the sale of the property to the foundation.

Ultimately, the city stepped in the buy the property instead, for a lower amount than Pulse owners rejected shortly after the shooting.

The city has suggested a more passive memorial at the site instead of a museum, but the change in who manages the effort effectively restarts planning more than seven years after the shooting.

A number of decisions have yet to be made now, including whether to leave the Pulse building standing. For several years, a temporary memorial with photo murals has surrounded the site.

City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, an out official who represents the area where Pulse operated, said the city must still go through a delicate process but must do so quickly.

“We need to get through the holidays and get moving after the first of the year,” she told The Advocate.

“Every time anything is brought up surrounding any issues surrounding Pulse, everyone is retraumatized. This was a severe injury to this community, especially for the families and survivors, and we have to deal with these issues in a very sensitive manner for families.”

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