ORLANDO, Fla. – More than seven years after a mass shooting that changed Central Florida, the community is still waiting for a permanent memorial to remember the 49 people who were killed at the Pulse Nightclub in 2016.
In 2019, the onePulse Foundation issued a press release announcing the acquisition of a 1.75-acre parcel on West Kaley Street, where it touted the eventual construction of a Pulse museum.
“Inspired by the community and stakeholder feedback, the National Pulse Memorial and Museum – scheduled to open in 2022 – will be located on the site of the Pulse nightclub and nearby properties,” the press release stated.
It has not happened.
News 6 investigated and uncovered – sadly – Orlando is not alone when it comes to a tragedy like this or a long wait to remember those killed.
More than 1,100 miles away from Orlando, Jenny Hubbard visits a permanent memorial in Newtown, Connecticut.
“It’s a beautiful tribute to the uniqueness of all of our loved ones,” Hubbard said.
The memorial honors the 20 children and six educators who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.
Hubbard lost her 6-year-old daughter Catherine that day.
“When you have a tragedy like Sandy Hook, or any other tragedy that rocks a community, it’s nice to have a place that marks that moment,” she said.
Construction of the memorial was overseen by the Town of Newtown, and it took 10 years to be completed.
In Littleton, Colorado, it took a private foundation eight years to complete a memorial honoring the victims of the Columbine High School shooting.
It also took eight years for a permanent memorial marking the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting. A private foundation oversaw that project, as well.
Eight years later, another foundation is overseeing construction of another memorial honoring the victims of a shooting at the Mother Emanual AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
In Las Vegas, memorial designs were just unveiled last month – six years after a mass shooting there.
Conversely, Virginia Tech completed a memorial remembering 32 people who were killed in a shooting rampage in 2007 in four months, while Walmart funded a memorial for a 2019 shooting at a store in El Paso in three-and-a-half months.
On average, News 6 found it took more than six years for communities rocked by a mass shooting to permanent memorialize the victims.
“This wasn’t something on television. It really happened,” Deborah Bowie said. “It is such a testimony to how the community came together.”
Bowie took the position of executive director of the onePulse Foundation in 2022.
The foundation’s mission is to build a permanent memorial and museum.
She said the pandemic slowed fundraising, the foundation recently parted ways with nightclub owner Barbara Poma, and one of the property’s investors is not willing to donate the nightclub land.
As a result, she said the organization has chosen to design a new blueprint for a permanent memorial and museum on a different site.
“We do have a goal,” she told News 6. “Our goal has been to try to – as we approach fourth quarter – to have a significant update on both the rescaled museum and the memorial.”
NO PULSE MUSEUM
Another group is fighting to stop construction of a Pulse museum.
“We demand a tasteful and respectful public memorial to honor our loved ones where one can come to reflect,” the letter reads, “not a tourist attraction that charges admissions and sells mass shooting merchandise in a gift shop to capture ‘off season’ dollars.”
Get today’s headlines in minutes with Your Florida Daily: