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It’s been four years since 49 people were killed at the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. The OnePulse foundation is holding a virtual remembrance ceremony Friday evening.
Concerns over coronavirus have moved the annual ceremony to Facebook and YouTube with a reading by family members of the names of those killed and remarks from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and onePULSE Foundation’s Barbara Poma. The program begins at 7 p.m.
The temporary memorial at the site of the nightclub is closed to the public, but precautions are in place like social distance markers, masks and hand sanitizing stations so survivors, family members and first responders can visit the site safely.
“What we’ve done is make sure that they can come here safely on June 12, whenever they’d like and have their time on site,” said onePULSE CEO Barbara Poma.
With the annual remembrance taking place online — and not at the physical site — Poma is asking the community to remember the victims by wearing and displaying rainbows.
“Every year during the ceremony, a rainbow has appeared during it. Whether it’s raining or not, we get a rainbow,” said Poma. “That’s really symbolic to the crowd. We know that the angels are with us — it’s a sign. Since this year we will not be having the ceremony on site we are asking Orlando and the community around the world to become that rainbow again and be that rainbow as it did on June 12.”
A virtual tour of the interim Pulse memorial is available online at onepulsefoundation.org.
Work continues on a permanent memorial with groundbreaking scheduled for next year and an opening of the site in 2022. A blue-ribbon panel comprising onePULSE community members, civic decision-makers, global thought leaders and world-renowned architects picked the design last year. OnePULSE foundation is working on finalizing the plans.
A permanent Pulse museum has faced some criticism from the community. A group against the creation of the memorial sent a video message to Orlando City Council members arguing onePULSE’s plan unfairly profits off the tragedy. An open letter by the organization has been signed by dozens of Pulse and other mass shooting victims’ family members.
OnePULSE’s Barbara Poma wants critics to see the permanent memorial as an educational center. “There is so much to learn about what happened here that evening and what happened afterwards,” said Poma. “We want to make sure that history is preserved. We need to make sure that generations that come after we’re gone are here to learn about it. What happened here, it should not be erased.”