ORANGE COUNTY RESPONDS TO PULSE TRAGEDY
The Central Florida community remains Orlando United after the tragic Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016, when a gunman killed 49 people and injured 68 others. It is considered the second deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman and the deadliest incident of violence against the LGBTQ community in modern U.S. history. The Pulse tragedy is also considered the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001.
ONE ORLANDO COLLECTION – ORANGE COUNTY REGIONAL HISTORY CENTER
Since the tragedy, Orange County’s History Center estimates that they have collected nearly 5,000 pieces, curated from the numerous memorials established throughout Orange County. The History Center serves as the repository and caretaker for the physical tribute items, which will continue to be collected and handled with great dignity as part of the One Orlando Collection Initiative. The initiative is a partnership between Orange County and the City of Orlando established to preserve history and properly care for the many thousands of tribute items created in response to the tragic loss of life that occurred at Pulse nightclub.
To preserve memorial items for the long-term memory of our community and to create a comprehensive historical record for current and future generations, Orange County’s Regional History Center is regularly photographing, cataloguing, removing and preserving the tribute items and mementoes from the public memorial sites throughout Central Florida. The Center serves as the repository and caretaker for the physical tribute items, which will be collected and handled with great dignity. The collection includes large, very public displays of condolences including the 49 white tribute crosses from Orlando Regional Medical Center and an iconic IKEA sofa which was placed at the Dr. Phillips Center of Performing Arts memorial site that is now covered in signatures and messages of love.
RESPONSE TO PULSE TRAGEDY
In the aftermath of the Pulse tragedy, Orange County Government, The City of Orlando, Orlando Police Department, FBI officials and members of local law enforcement held press conferences to provide updates to the community about the ongoing investigation. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also visited Orlando where they were greeted by local and state leaders. They visited with the families of the 49 victims at the Amway Center and also paid their respects by laying white roses at the memorial on the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where President Obama addressed the nation on the tragedy.
To help the community heal and soothe the pain of those impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting, Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dogs were also deployed to Orange County in the weeks following the tragedy. Golden Retrievers from all over the United States traveled to Orlando to comfort survivors in the hospital, families of the victims, Pulse employees, first responders and members of the community. Among those who received a visit from these furry friends were employees at the Orange County District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office and the Orange County Government Administration Center.
The Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office worked around the clock to identify, autopsy and reunite the 49 victims of the Pulse tragedy with their families. By June 16, all 49 deceased victims had been released to their loved ones.
ORANGE COUNTY AND INTER-FAITH LEADERS UNITE TO SUPPORT LGBTQ COMMUNITY
A week after the Pulse tragedy, in tribute to the lives lost at the shooting and in support of freedom worldwide, Section 93 of the Sea-to-Sea Rainbow Flag was proudly displayed at the Orange County Government Administration Center on June 16 and 17, 2016. Orange County held a commemorative ceremony on June 17, 2016 to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub tragedy and to celebrate what the flag symbolizes in the LGBTQ community—acceptance, understanding, education, solidarity and inclusion.
In partnership with LGBTQ representatives, faith leaders and other officials from throughout Central Florida, Orange County also hosted an inter-faith press conference on June 15, 2016, to showcase the strong support from faith-based leaders for the grieving families, and to issue a call for peace and unity during the upcoming funerals, which began that evening.
The community held countless vigils to honor the lives of the 49 Pulse victims. The Tuesday after the Pulse tragedy, hundreds convened at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to join elected officials and civic leaders to mourn the loss together. On Sunday, June 19, 2016, more than 50,000 residents came together at Lake Eola Park to celebrate unity and love at a heartfelt candlelight vigil. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando also held a Spanish vigil at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on June 29, 2016, to honor Latinos and all the lives that were taken so tragically on June 12, 2016.
CENTRAL FLORIDA SPORTS TEAMS STAND #ORLANDOUNITED
In the weeks following the Pulse tragedy, the Central Florida sports teams especially stood #OrlandoUnited with the community. At Orlando City Soccer Club’s first Orlando home game since the Pulse Orlando tragedy, the team and stadium attendees paid tribute to the 49 victims who lost their lives and survivors in a pre-match ceremony against the San Jose Earthquakes. The game also featured Major League Soccer’s first-ever moment of silence during the match’s 49th minute.
Other Central Florida sports teams that paid tribute to the Pulse victims include the Orlando Pride, Orlando Magic, Orlando Predators and Orlando Solar Bears. These teams also partnered with Orlando City Soccer to benefit victims’ families and survivors through T-shirt sales and fundraising efforts for the OneOrlando Fund.
ORLANDO UNITED ASSISTANCE CENTER
On June 23, 2016, in partnership with Disney, AT&T, Orange County Government and the City of Orlando, the Orlando United Assistance Center (OUAC) officially opened its doors to serve those affected by the Pulse nightclub tragedy. Orange County Facilities and Information System Services staff, the City of Orlando, AT&T employees, and Walt Disney World Resort volunteers worked tirelessly to give the facility a much-needed—and impressively speedy—makeover. The OUAC continues to operate under the direction of Heart of Florida United Way, where they manage all daily functional activities of the center, including the oversight of the building and its staff and partnerships with various service providers.
ONE ORLANDO COLLECTION AT DR. PHILLIPS CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
On July 18, 2016, Orange County Regional History Center staff completed their One Orlando memorial collection efforts at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts' Seneff Arts Plaza. All items were catalogued and photographed prior to their long-term preservation as part of the One Orlando Collection Initiative. The Orange County Facilities Management team also worked tirelessly to manage the dignified and careful removal of thousands of deteriorated flowers from the memorials related to the Pulse tragedy. The flowers have been collected and moved to Leu Gardens, where—through composting—they organically turned them into soil that will be used to nourish the gardens throughout the City of Orlando. A local uniformed Central Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America troop also performed the dignified removal of hundreds of American flags from the site, along with Puerto Rican and other official flags. The flags will be properly retired by the American Legion.
To share a photo, memory, story or video, please contact Orange County Regional History Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CENTRAL FLORIDA COMMUNITY CONTINUES TO HEAL SIX MONTHS AFTER PULSE TRAGEDY
On Dec. 12, 2016, Orange County Government and the City of Orlando hosted a Pulse Six-Month Remembrance Ceremony to honor the 49 victims, their families and 68 wounded in the Pulse nightclub tragedy, which occurred June 12, 2016.
Survivors and the family and friends of victims were joined by community leaders and elected officials at the gathering, held at twilight on the plaza surrounding Orange County’s Regional History Center. The ceremony featured remarks by the Mayor, The City of Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan, Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma, Jennifer Foster and Carlos Carbonell from the LGBTQ Alliance as well as special performances by the Orlando Gay Chorus and acclaimed singer-songwriter Sisaundra Lewis from “The Voice.” GLBT Center Executive Director Terry DeCarlo emceed the ceremony.
ORLANDO UNITED DAY TRIBUTES REMEMBER THE 49
On June 12, 2017, Orange County joined the City of Orlando and onePULSE Foundation to observe the one-year remembrance of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy on Orlando United Day | A Day of Love and Kindness. The community remembered the 49 innocent lives lost, their family and friends, as well as those who were physically injured and those who bear the deep emotional scars of survival. The community also extended their support for the Pulse family, Pulse Nightclub owner Barbara Poma and the LGBTQ, Latinx and Hispanic communities.
A joint proclamation ceremony with Orange County and the City of Orlando established Monday, June 12, 2017, as Orlando United Day, an annual commemoration moving forward, dedicated to honoring the memory of the victims, supporting survivors and recognizing the compassion that was displayed by the community and the world during the darkest and most difficult day in its history.
Throughout the day, the community participated in the One Orlando Alliance’s Act, Love, Give movement which encouraged local residents and those around the world to honor all who have been impacted by the Pulse tragedy. Members of the community were also welcomed at Pulse Nightclub to remember the 49 innocent victims. The nightclub held a ceremony that included various community speakers, reflective prayers, a reading of the 49 names, a display of 49 wreaths and music by Violectric with the Lutheran Comfort Dogs.
At noon, Central Florida and worldwide churches tolled their bells 49 times to remember the 49 innocent lives lost. More than 190 churches committed and participated in this global remembrance. The Orlando Love: Remembering Our Angels event was also held at Lake Eola Park Amphitheater. The ceremony included remarks by community leaders, musical performances by Olga Tañón and Sisaundra Lewis with a memorial reading of the names of the 49. The community was invited to conclude the evening at Pulse Nightclub with a series of prayers, musical remembrances, inspirational dance and reflection.
On June 11, 2017, several buildings and landmarks across Central Florida were lit in rainbow colors including the Orange County Convention Center, the Orange County Regional History Center, The Orlando Eye, the fountain at Lake Eola and structures on the major roadways like the East-West Expressway, State Road 408.
In the days following the Pulse tragedy last year, the Orange County Regional History Center worked on an immediate short-term response to the tragedy, which was later formally named the One Orlando Collection Initiative. To date, more than 5,000 items are included in the Collection. Orange County encourages Central Floridians and virtual visitors from across the nation and the world to view these touching tributes at our Keep the Pulse website, www.OneOrlandoCollection.com.