When I turned off South Orange Avenue and onto West Esther Street, as I rounded the corner and parked my car, I tried to prepare myself for the emotions I would feel. Visiting the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida had been something I had wanted to do for some time. Since I had taken the 3-hour drive from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando for an educational conference, I felt I needed to stop.
Back in June of 2016, our community was devastated by what had happened in Orlando. Living blocks from Wilton Manors, one of the gayest communities in the nation and equidistant from the killer’s home and Orlando, we were all sleepless, distraught, sorrowful. Some of us even personally knew victims of that hate that changed our community forever.
As I stepped out of my car, I did not where my head and my heart were going to go. I quickly copped out and started walking toward the souvenir kiosk/stand so I could give myself some time to gather my thoughts.
No, there will be time for that at the end, and there was no one there to assist, so I walked toward the interim memorial that was around the building.
For an interim memorial, I was impressed with what I saw. The display walls were a well-constructed wooden barrier between viewers and the building with occasional glass panels so you could see things that had been places on the night club’s façade. Pictures adorned the walls, some with lots of color and others of items placed on white background. Those items that were photographed on the white background were items that had been left at the Pulse location.
The memorial wall curved around three sides of the building. There were so many pictures, so many items, pictures people, messages left. I didn’t know where to look. As I walked around, I found myself switching back and forth from looking at the photographs and falling back into my memory of that night in 2016 and the following nights and weeks. I could hear Anderson Cooper in my head, reading the names while I looked at the list of names on the night club’s wall. I could hear the recording of the shots fired that I foolishly allowed myself to listen to. I would catch another picture of a fallen angel and then go back to the feeling I had that sleepless night where I kept running through my head that I should be buying a gun or something to protect myself.
I felt like I was about to cry, but it wasn’t about me. My tears would not make anything better, nothing would magically happen if I shed a tear or seven. Yes it was my visit and my emotions I was feeling, but it didn’t feel right for me to cry. I watched other people walk around and heard the comments made to one another.
And then I saw a gentleman drive up in his car, park as close as he could to the curb and the memorial, and did not get out. He sat there for about 7 minutes just looking at the memorial. I contemplated going over to his car and asking if he needed someone to go with him, walk with him around the memorial. Then again, of course that would be overstepping a little. We all needed to process what happened that day in June of 2016 and we all need to process the memorial now.
No, this was not like my traditional Travel Thursday pieces, but it was probably one of my most important Instinct travel destinations I have visited in the past 5 years. And of course, now I am tearing up while finishing this for the love that was still present at that location, the love that was being portrayed, the heartache that was displayed. I think, I know I processed it a great deal more now as well as when I was taking that 3-hour drive home. No, it should not have happened, but this memorial and the future memorial and museum will hopefully help to educate others so this has a less chance of happening again to our community.
The interim memorial has been up for about 10 weeks now and plans to finalize a memorial and museum are in the works. For more information, head over to onePulsefoundation.org , look around, and even sign up for updates and news. The current memorial is truly amazing, but I am looking forward to see how they honor our fallen angels and our community.