'It's our legacy,' Barbara Poma says at Pulse interim memorial opening

Memorial opens to public at 3 p.m.

ORLANDO, Fla. – For the first time since the mass shooting on June 12, 2016, people have a formal memorial to remember the 49 victims killed at Pulse nightclub.

An interim memorial was unveiled by the onePULSE Foundation to friends and family of victims and survivors Tuesday morning at the site of the nightclub on South Orange Avenue, just south of downtown Orlando.

The foundation held a private dedication ceremony that opened and closed with song. A rendition of Leonard Cohan's "Hallelujah" was sung before several people, including Pulse owner and onePULSE Foundation founder Barbara Poma, who spoke at the ceremony.

At 3 p.m. the temporary memorial, which includes new landscaping, benches, walkways and a memorial wall, will open to the public.

Visitors sign the Pulse sign at the new interim Pulse memorial that opened on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (Photo: Sachelle Sanders)
Visitors sign the Pulse sign at the new interim Pulse memorial that opened on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (Photo: Sachelle Sanders)

Poma said many of the trees, supplies and items included in the memorial were donated. She said the outreach was a true testament to how the greater Orlando community continues to respond to the tragedy.

"The list is so long for people who just wanted to be a part of this," Poma said. "It is so reflective of Orlando’s reaction."

Almost two years after the mass shooting, a fence blocks the view to the black building and its small parking lot. A few months after the one-year mark, the city of Orlando installed a new fence featuring local artwork to replace the one erected by the FBI after the massacre.

The fence and the surrounding sidewalk near Pulse have served as places where people can leave memorial items for the victims. The front lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando Regional Medical Center also served as temporary memorials in the weeks after the shooting.

The Orange County Regional History Center has continued to document and collect more than 5,000 artifacts of remembrance and artifacts from inside the nightclub.

History Center curator Pam Swartz helped select the images used for the interim memorial and is on the planning committee.

[Watch the full ceremony below]

The onePULSE Foundation has been in charged of the review, design and plans for the memorial. Plans for a more robust, permanent memorial and museum are underway.

"This is our responsibility," Poma said of the memorial. "It is our legacy to all future generations, and it's going to take all of us to get it done right."

Poma closed her remarks Tuesday by reading a Greek proverb: "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.”

At the end of the dedication, Tymisha Harris encouraged everyone to stand up and sing along with her as she sang Janet and Wanda Jackson's "Together Again."

Attendees clapped their hands along with the song and danced to the lyrics.

The temporary memorial will provide the backdrop for the second annual remembrance ceremony on June 12.

One year after the shooting, the city of Orlando and Orange County officials declared the date of the shooting to be Orlando United Day, a day of love and kindness, "recognizing the compassion and love that was displayed by the Central Florida community following the tragedy."

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