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Remembering the Pulse Tragedy, 6 Years Later

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Sunday, June 12th marked the sixth anniversary of the nation’s largest mass shooting involving the LGBTQ+ community at Pulse Nightclub here in Orlando.

As the families of the 49 “angels,” survivors, first responders, trauma workers, and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community gathered for the ceremony on the site of what will be the Pulse Memorial, some of the raw emotion from that night still permeates the community. There were tears and hugs all around, some bringing flowers to place at the interim memorial or to hold in memory of their loved one or friend during the ceremony.

Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon said that six years later, he still remembers how the community came together, helped those who needed it, and “did not let hate define us.” He said he is very proud to have served with the men and women who risked everything six years ago to bring an end to the carnage inside Pulse.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina said he always thinks of the victims and their families. He said he sees some of the family members and survivors on occasion, and can’t believe it has been six years because it feels like it was yesterday.

The theme heard by all those in attendance was gratitude for the unity that has grown out of the tragedy. But many still reflect on the lack of places like Pulse, where they can go have fun and be free of judgment.

Many say they are still deeply affected by the events of that night and are taking things day by day. Two of last night’s speakers were Pulse survivors.

 

Pulse Survivors Speak

Amanda Brown, who was shot four times, spent a month in the hospital and a year in physical therapy and is still healing mentally talked about how she didn’t want to go anywhere for a year after that night but realized she couldn’t live in fear and couldn’t take life for granted. Thanks to the Corey James Connell scholarship, she is now an EMT helping others like she was helped that night.

And Patience Murry, who was shot twice and held hostage for three hours, said she is not a victim or a survivor but a champion because she faced and triumphed over the wounds left by that night.

 

Key Speakers

Barbara Poma, owner of the Pulse Nightclub and founder of the onePulse Foundation spoke of how Pulse was a safe place to be yourself without judgment and how we as a society need to find our way back to civil disagreement, where we can talk about our differences and agree to disagree if need be. She wants us to reconfirm that Orlando is welcoming to everyone.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings kept that theme going in a recorded message that spoke on continued inclusion in Orange County and that he hoped the unity that started six years ago will continue and grow.

Teacher, writer, and LGBTQ+ activist Chasten Buttigieg summed everything up this way: “No words can match what happened that night. The loss is so visceral because so many found life, family, and friends in places like Pulse.

“Each person needs to live life to the fullest as their unique full self. And we need to make every space full of love, life, and acceptance.”

Like the few protestors that showed up during the memorial, we can debate if money is being spent properly, we can debate on what a memorial should look like, and we can debate on ways to put an end to gun violence. But what we can’t debate is the fact that 49 families were forever changed that night. That the lives of the survivors, the first responders, and the trauma teams were forever changed. And we can’t debate, that Orlando was forever changed by the events of that night.

As Barbara Poma said, “Change is in each of us, chose love over hate. We are all connected, all One Pulse.”

 

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