Just days shy of the fifth anniversary of the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting massacre in Orlando, Florida, Congress has passed a measure to officially commemorate the site of the domestic terrorism attack against LGBTQ folks as a national memorial.
Dan Avery of NBC News reported that the U.S. Senate passed the legislation unanimously. Since the House already approved their version on May 12, the measure will now go before President Biden for final approval. Although his approval is all but guaranteed, it’s unclear when it will come since he is now on an international trip meeting with leaders for the G7 summit.
According to Avery, “Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., introduced the Senate bill. Scott was governor at the time of the massacre, which saw 49 clubgoers killed and dozens more wounded before the shooter, Omar Mateen, was killed in a shootout with law enforcement after a three-hour siege.”
As he brought the measure up for a vote on the Senate floor, Scott recalled speaking to a number of the parents, friends and family members of those killed in the shooting on June 12, 2016. He also talked about the numerous funerals and wakes that followed, calling it one of the hardest periods he’d ever experienced in his life, both in and out of public office.
“[It was] an evil act of terrorism designed to divide us as a nation and strike fear in our hearts and minds,” he said. “But instead, we came together, and supported each other through heartbreak and darkness, to preserve and rebuild.”
Avery also reported on the abundant praise the declaration received on social media, including a tweet from Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the attack, who thanked the Senate “for recognizing our hallowed ground.”
Three days before the 5 year remembrance, the Senate has passed a bill designating Pulse as a national memorial site.
Thank you, Florida delegation, for recognizing our hallowed ground. 💙 https://t.co/axW6sYULVI
— Brandon Wolf (@bjoewolf) June 9, 2021
The moderators of the Pulse Orlando Facebook page, which has also become an online memorial for the shooting victims, also expressed gratitude for the bill’s passage, issuing a statement, saying, in part: “The unanimous consent is such welcome news as we are set to mark the five-year remembrance of the Pulse tragedy. This recognition from both the House and Senate means so much to the LGBTQ+ community. #WeWillNotLetHateWin”
Even with a national memorial designation, the Pulse site will not become part of the U.S. National Park System, nor will the proposed monument receive federal funding. Instead, those duties will fall on the nonprofit onePulse Foundation, which has already made great strides in that area.
In 2019, the nonprofit unveiled an official design for a museum and monument designed through a collaboration between French architectural firm Coldefy & Associés and Orlando-based HHCP Architects.
“The monument incorporates a reflecting pool and a garden with 49 trees ringing the remains of the nightclub, where an interim memorial currently stands,” Avery reported. “A half-mile away, on West Kaley Street, the museum would rise ‘like a budding flower’ … with a rooftop memorial offering views of both the memorial and what is being called the ‘Pulse District’ south of downtown Orlando.”
According to Avery, “the first phase of the memorial, a ‘Survivors Walk’ featuring interactive sculptures, will span a half-mile of South Orange Avenue and connect the memorial to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where many wounded were taken the night of the attack.”
The memorial and monument were scheduled to be completed by 2022, but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed those initial plans. A new construction and opening timeframe is still pending and has yet to be announced.
In February 2021, LGBTQ singer and actor Ricky Martin signed on as a national spokesperson for the onePulse Foundation. The nonprofit is working to raise $49 million to fund the memorial project and additional community outreach programs, including the endowment of 49 legacy scholarships to honor each individual who lost their lives on that horrible day.
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