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Orlando mayor and Pulse nightclub owner want a permanent memorial

Orlando, Fla., Mayor Buddy Dyer said the city should acquire Pulse, a gay nightclub which was the site of a recent massacre, to create a permanent memorial.

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    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visits a makeshift memorial outside Pulse in Orlando, Fla., July 22, 2016. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer says the city is interested in purchasing the nightclub to turn it into a permanent memorial.
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In the almost two months since the Pulse attack in Orlando, Fla., remembrances have been left at the gay nightclub by thousands of visitors including the prime minister of Luxembourg and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Now, the city of Orlando is interested in purchasing the site to turn the temporary memorial into a permanent one.

“People are traveling from all over the country, really all over the world. I’ve been, quite honestly, a little surprised at the volume of visitors that we have had,” said Mayor Buddy Dyer in an interview with the local NPR station. “At some point I think the city needs to gain control [or] purchase the Pulse site and then make some determination, with a lot of input, on what a permanent memorial might look like.”

The former nightclub was the target of a terrorist attack, specifically against the Latin gay community. A memorial would likely celebrate gay rights and patriotism in the face of terror.   

Since the June 12 massacre that left 50 dead, including the shooter, a temporary memorial continues to grow around the former nightclub, with visitors leaving flowers, candles, and signs.

Barbara Poma, Pulse's owner, has begun to take steps to establish a place of remembrance. “It’s sacred ground to her,” Pulse spokeswoman Sara Brady told the Orlando Sentinel. Last month, Ms. Poma and her attorney formed OnePulse Foundation, a nonprofit with the stated purpose of "conceiving, funding, and aiding in the construction of a permanent memorial."

The city has since stepped in, entering into preliminary discussions with Poma to explore options for the site.

Mayor Dyer told NPR he would like to see the club remain unchanged for about a year, so visitors can see Pulse in its current state.

Pulse would not be the first memorial to the history of the gay rights movement. In May 2014, the National Park Service started an initiative to identify places and events important to the movement. Since then, several LGBT sites have been designated as National Historic Landmarks, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, or, in one case, designated a national monument: The Stonewall Inn, the location of the historic Stonewall uprising that is widely considered the birthplace of the gay rights movement.

During the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the tavern's patrons fought back against an anti-gay raid by New York City police. In the decades since, the bar has remained a pivotal cultural center for the movement. Prior to the June 24 designation by President Obama, the city had made Stonewall a city landmark.

Stonewall's importance to the LGBT community was on display in the hours after the Pulse attack, as New Yorkers gathered to mourn the victims of the Pulse shooting. Several hundred people, guarded by police officers and a plumage of rainbow decorations, congregated at the tavern to protest hate and to grieve.

"Stonewall is a place that serves as a point of connection for a lot of people, for feeling vulnerable," Joseph Pierce of Brooklyn, N.Y., said at the time.

A Pulse memorial would fit into this tradition. Like memorials at the former World Trade Center and the Pentagon that commemorate the 9/11 attacks, it would serve as a reminder of both the vulnerability of innocents and how the country came together following these tragedies. 

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