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Pulse nightclub to be purchased by city of Orlando with plans of mass shooting memorial

Pulse nightclub to be purchased by city of Orlando with plans of mass shooting memorial

Christopher Cann
 USA TODAYplayShow CaptionHide Caption#videoDetailsToggle{color:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));cursor:pointer;display:inline-block;font-family:var(–sans-serif,sans-serif);font-size:var(–type-7);font-weight:var( –font-weight-bold,900);line-height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);margin-bottom:-8px}#vdt_hide{margin-bottom:10px}.vdt-flex[hidden]{display:none}.vdt-svg{fill:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);width:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px)}Walking around the Pulse Memorial, 5 years after the attackWalk around the Pulse Memorial in Orlando, Florida, honoring the 49 people killed when a man opened fire in a popular gay nightclub June 12, 2016.C. A. Bridges, Florida Today

ORLANDO, Fla. – The city of Orlando plans to purchase the Pulse nightclub, the location of what was once the nation’s deadliest mass shooting, in order to advance the many fitful efforts to build a permanent memorial.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, announced the city’s intent to purchase the land before beginning work on a memorial for the victims and survivors of the massacre that killed 49 people and injured 53 in 2016.

“In the interest of solving challenges in a way that brings our community together in love, acceptance and partnership, which is the enduring legacy of Pulse, we have decided to purchase the land from its current owners,” Dyer said. “We believe that this is the best and most appropriate way to expedite the creation of a proper memorial for the Pulse tragedy.”

The proposed $2 million land purchase will go before the city council on Monday, Dyer said.

What happened at Pulse nightclub?

On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen walked into the gay nightclub and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounded 53 others. It was the nation’s deadliest mass shooting until a year later when a gunman killed 60 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas. Mateen was shot and killed at the scene by Orlando police.

In the seven years since the massacre, efforts to build a memorial have been mired in debate and controversy. The onePulse Foundation, a nonprofit that’s led efforts to build a permanent memorial and museum at the nightclub, has been unable to fulfill its proposals. Barbara Poma – who has owned the property with her husband Rosario and businessman Michael Panaggio – stepped down as executive director of the nonprofit last year. Some months ago, she exited the organization entirely, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The foundation, meanwhile, scaled back plans for a $100 million memorial, citing fundraising challenges.

Reaction to city purchase of ‘sacred ground’

In a statement emailed to USA TODAY, Deborah Bowie, the executive director of onePulse Foundation, thanked the mayor for advocating a purchase plan.

“We are thankful to the City of Orlando for ensuring that the National Pulse Memorial will be located at the Pulse nightclub site, which was always the hope of families of the 49 victims and the Pulse-impacted community,” Bowie said. “We look forward to being a part of the discussion with the City of Orlando as this moves forward.”

Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the deadly shooting and an activist, said in an interview with USA TODAY, “it’s past time for the Pulse-affected community to see some progress” on a permanent memorial.

“In my view, the Pulse is sacred ground. It’s the last place I got to spend time with the people I love most in the world – the place I still feel closest to them,” he said. “And so I think it really matters that we’re finally moving forward to create a permanent place where folks can breathe, reflect and honor those who were stolen from them.”

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, praised the deal struck between property owners and the city. “This is the right thing to do – the site of Pulse is sacred for so many of us and should not be sold to the highest bidder,” she said on X. “I am grateful for the City of Orlando for listening to Pulse families and taking this important step.”

In 2021, President Joe Biden signed a law designating the Pulse nightclub in Orlando as a national memorial.

Yearslong journeys to build other mass shooting memorials

Construction of other permanent memorials commemorating deadly mass shootings in the U.S. has often taken years.

In Newtown, Connecticut, the families of victims and survivors of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting – which killed 20 first graders and six adults – had to wait 10 years for a memorial.

In Aurora, Colorado, an avian-themed memorial opened six years after 13 people were killed in a mass shooting at a movie theater in July 2012.

In June, designers unveiled renderings for a permanent memorial honoring those impacted by the Harvest Festival mass shooting, six years after the October 2017 massacre at the Las Vegas Strip.

Also in June, construction workers broke ground on a permanent memorial dedicated to the lives of the nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, who were fatally shot by an admitted white supremacist in 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.

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