Nearly six months after the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., during a Latin dance party, the space, which has become increasingly symbolic for the LGBT community locally and worldwide, is set to become a memorial.
The city of Orlando reached a deal Monday to buy the LGBT nightclub property for $2.25 million, and the City Council will vote on whether to approve the decision within the next few weeks. The plan is to eventually turn the space into a memorial to remember the 49 victims the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
"This location is now a permanent part of Orlando's history. It's the site of the most tragic event that has ever occurred in the City of Orlando," Mayor Buddy Dyer said in a statement. "We want our entire community to be a part of this site. With the City owning the property, we can engage in a public process to determine the future of the Pulse property and building."
It was the club's co-owner, Rosario Poma, who first voiced the idea that the location where hundreds of people were already coming from around the world to mourn and to leave flowers, pictures, and notes could be turned into a more permanent memorial. Members of the LGBT community and its allies quickly jumped on board.
“The community didn’t want the property sold to somebody else,” Terry DeCarlo, the executive director of The Center of Central Florida, an LGBT advocacy organization in Orlando, tells the Christian Science Monitor. “It has become a place to go to mourn, to remember, the celebrate the lives of those that we lost, so to see the property sold to somebody else and to see something else go up on the property would have been disheartening.”
Many ideas have been proposed, including turning the space into a garden, leaving part of club and its prominent road sign intact, and creating a space to display the many tributes that mourners sent in from all around the world.
Along with input from community members, the city will consult with experts from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and other museums around the country dedicated to tragedies. Mr. DeCarlo says this input will be invaluable to the planning process.
The city isn’t rushing into any concrete plans, determined to leave the space to the mourners for the time being.
"There are lots of people that are making a visit to the site part of their trip, part of their experience of Orlando, so I think 12 to 18 months of leaving it as-is would be appropriate," Mayor Dyer told the Orlando Sentinel.
As Orlando began to recover after the tragedy, mourning for lives lost and the 53 people who were injured, recordings of 911 calls from the attack continued to air on television, undoing some of that healing, DeCarlo says. But this memorial will help facilitate the process.
“Orlando as a whole is healing from this tragedy,” DeCarlo tells the Monitor. “The narrative has changed a little bit in the past months away from mourning into a celebration of those lives. The city is moving forward and I think you are going to see it get even stronger once this memorial is built, because it will be around forever for people to see exactly what happened here.”