ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Outside the Student Union at the University of Central Florida, a vibrant mural still shines honoring UCF student Juan Ramon Guerrero and alumni Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, while inside a discussion took place on how to remember and honor their legacies as part of the 49 lives lost in the Pulse shooting nearly five years ago.
“We want to make sure that our students, our staff, our faculty at the university have these spaces and places to talk about their feelings that come out one, three- and five years post-Pulse,” Michael Nunes said, he is a coordinator for LGBTQ+ services at UCF.
The Reflection on Pulse roundtable was a discussion with UCF’s LGBTQ+ services on how many students are still grieving, including those now young adults who were just teenagers when the shooting took place.
“I’ve grown closer to the pain today than I did when I was 15,” a student named Cass said. “When Pulse happened I was 15, I was about to start my sophomore year in high school. I had come out the year before and I remembering being really torn up about it.”
The event Tuesday afternoon was one of several planned all week leading up to the five-year mark on Saturday.
“It’s so important and five years flew by and it makes you think what have we done since then,” UCF senior Keri Allen said. “How have we made the community more accessible? More affirming? More accepting and safer?”
For, Nunes it’s all about continued advocacy.
“It’s always important that we strive to do better for the entire community, we continue to do better for our trans brothers and sisters and siblings because they are still with trans sports bills and trans bathroom bills -- it’s an aggression towards trans people,” Nunes said. “It’s so important to always remember the 49. That is why advocacy is always important because we are doing it for them doing it for everyone who no longer has that voice.”
UCF continues to honor the victims of the shooting by hosting a blood drive on Wednesday and will host a vigil on Thursday night on campus.