ORLANDO — The City of Orlando has started the process of creating a permanent memorial that pays lasting tribute to the victims of the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting.
“As the Central Florida community continues to heal from this tragic event, the city stands committed to creating a permanent space that will preserve the memory of those who lost their lives, provide comfort to those who seek it and honor the spirit and love of our great city,” noted a news release issued by the city’s press secretary, Cassandra Anne Lafser on Friday.
As part of that, she noted, the city government has started a partnership with the Orange County Regional History Center to collect and preserve items that had been intended to pay tribute to the Pulse victims, including letters, notes, and signs placed at temporary memorial sites.
The Orlando region continues to work on recovering from the devastating massacre that happened on Sunday June 12, when a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others inside Pulse, a gay nightclub near downtown Orlando.
The deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, the assailant was later identified as Omar Mateen, 29. He was killed by Orlando police after a three hour standoff.
In the days that followed, numerous vigils organized to pay tribute to the victims and their families have attracted thousands from across the region, and enabled Orlando to begin the long and difficult healing process.
“Since June 12th, in the face of this tragedy, the city of Orlando has seen an outpouring of love and support from people from all over the world,” Lafser noted in the release. “Memorials to honor those impacted by this tragedy have been created in several public locations throughout the city, including City Hall, Lake Eola Park, Lake Beauty at Orlando Health and Seneff Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. These memorials have provided a place for people to grieve, support each other and find hope and healing. “
The city government decided that these items should be protected for the benefit of the victims’ families, the Orlando community and for future generations, Lafser noted, so on Friday the History Center staff begin collecting some of the non-perishable tribute items that have been placed at Lake Eola Park.
These items will be preserved at the Orange County Regional History Center.
All other tribute items will be moved to the temporary site of the new memorial, at the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, by Monday.
“This work is being done to ensure the protection of these valuable items and to facilitate preparations for one of the city’s signature events for the community, Fireworks at the Fountain,” Lafser noted of the popular fireworks event at Lake Eola Park, which will be held on Independence Day.
The memorial items will continue to be collected by staff at the History Center, located at 65 E. Central Boulevard in downtown Orlando, for long-term preservation. To learn more, call the Center at 407-836-8500.
Flowers placed at the different temporary memorial sites will also get picked up regularly, then organically turned into soil that will be used in gardens throughout the city.
Lafser noted that the city government also wants more resident input on this process, and will be creating a committee to oversee this process in the future.
“The city is committed to having an open and transparent process that includes input from victims, families and the larger community,” Lafser wrote in the release, adding that the committee will “oversee the process of creating this meaningful memorial where everyone can remember each of those who were taken from us and the love they brought into this world.”
Orlando continues to collect donations through its OneOrlando Fund. On Thursday, the Winter Park Playhouse hosted a sold-out benefit and raised $7,262 through ticket sales, bar sales and additional contributions. All proceeds will be donated to OneOrlando.
“We are so grateful to all of the 25 actors, the crew and staff, and the patrons who all donated their time, talent and financial resources to help benefit the victims and families of this tragedy,” said heather Alexander, the executive director of the Playhouse. “It just shows how much love there is in this wonderful community.”
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..