The most horrific act of terrorism against LGBT people in America was the mass shooting that occured at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on the evening of 12 June 2016. On that night 49 people were gunned down simply because they were at this nightclub. The senseless brutality of the act by a lone gunman — who may have done what he did out of his own hatred of understanding that he was a gay man, and his religion's teachings against being LGBT — cannot be overstated.

 

In October 2016 I was in Orlando doing my talk on the X-15. I felt compelled to take the time to visit the site while I was in town. As I drove down Orange Avenue, and got closer to the address, I experienced trepidation at what I might see. Then, about half mile north of the club I saw the first banner. It read "ORLANDO UNITED" on a background of rainbow colors! This was soon followed by "ORLANDO STRONG" At that moment, my mood shifted. I knew that I was in a safe place because all of Oralndo had come together to show their support through these signs. It turns out that these were bolted to lamposts along both sides of the street, both above and below the club, signifying that the city would not forget their LGBT brothers and sisters.

 

When I first arrived at the site, there were several others present, including two men with a small pickup truck that has been modified to be a rolling memorial to the 49 souls who were murdered that night. I returned the next day, before catching my flight home. In less than 24 hours, there were many changes from new visitors. Pulse now serves as a mecca for those who wish to honor and remember.

 

When I approached the club itself, the building had been surrounded by a chain-link fence, which was then covered in black tarp to prevent prying eyes to see through. To counter this, art groups in Orlando have covered the black with large colorful canvases depicting support for the victims and the LGBT community. And covering the canvases, visitors from all over the world have left their messages of sorrow, of love, and of hope. It is some of these messages that I wish to share with everyone here.

Third Visit to Pulse: 29 March 2017

Contrary to what you might expect, the site of the Pulse nighclub shooting appears to be more active now than when I first visited six months ago. The outpouring of love and support for the victims and the LGBT community in general has increased. One difference is that the "Orlando Strong" and Orlando United" banners have been removed from the streets surrounding the site, but the site itself has many more memorials than previously. Of special note is a large stone monument near the center of the old Pulse parking lot that includes photos of all those who lost their lives that night, along with a rainbow flag set behind a sheet of glass with the victims names inscribed into the glass. I am heartened by the continued outpouring of support.