The Pulse Nightclub Memorial (c) OutUK
Few LGBT people will forget the events of 12th June 2016, when an armed gunman carried out what was then the worst mass shooting in U.S. history and the deadliest ever against LGBT people, at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. 49 people lost their lives and 53 others were wounded in a late night hate crime attack in Florida's City Beautiful.
Just over 7 Years ago the onePULSE Foundation was set up by owners of The Pulse, Barbara and Rosario Poma, and their plan was to build a memorial on the site of the club in tribute to those affected by the appauling tragedy. Barbara Poma had been the face and main fundraiser for the foundation since its inception in 2016. In that role she spearheaded plans for the memorial to be built at the Orange Avenue site after a deal to sell the property to the city of Orlando fell apart in 2016.

Since then, the foundation has been running a multi-million dollar fundraising effort to build not only the memorial but a museum as well. Now the onePULSE Foundation says talks with the nightclub owners have broken down and the foundation is having to move on. Poma asked the foundation to pay her, her husband and their business partner Michael Panaggio two and a quarter million dollars for the property following Barbara Poma's replacement as Executive Director and then full departure from the foundation last month.

onePULSE says it asked the owners for a full donation of the Pulse nightclub property but an agreement could not be reached. Co-owner Barbara Poma said she and her husband were willing to donate the Pulse nightclub property to the Foundation but a third party, their business partner, was not. Daytona Beach-based businessman Mike Panaggio said, "I am a silent investor that should never be asked to donate to a cause I'm not involved with in any way. It's desperation, the Pulse Foundation is obviously not well."

The foundation in response has announced that it is moving forward with plans for the National Pulse Memorial on a new site.

There have been financial concerns surrounding the onePULSE Foundation for years. Their tax returns show the foundation's fundraising efforts for the memorial and museum have not kept pace with the ballooning costs of the build thought originally to be in the region of 49 million dollars. Now the build costs for the memorial and museum seem to have more than doubled and it's clear that the entire project will have to be reconsidered.

On hearing the news, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said, "I trust in the wisdom of the onePULSE Foundation to do what is best for the organisation. I know the foundation will continue to work to uplift the community and support those directly affected by the tragedy."

OutUK has visited the site which is filled with colorful artwork, flowers, and vigils. We bring you here some of those images and news of how the community has pulled together to support those who were involved.

The Pulse Nightclub opened on 2 July 2004 founded by Barbara Poma and Ron Legler. Poma's brother, John, died in 1991 from AIDS, and the club was "named for John's pulse to live on". Poma ensured that her brother's memory was prominent on the website, that the facility was more than "just another gay club". Ron Legler was President of the Florida Theatrical Association at the time of the foundation, and set up two other nightclubs in Florida before he left for Baltimore in 2011.

The Pulse Nightclub Memorial (c) OutUK
The Washington Post described the first 12 years of the Pulse Nightclub as "a community hub for HIV prevention, breast-cancer awareness and immigrant rights", and reported it had partnered with educational and advocacy groups such as Come Out with Pride and Equality Florida - who have been raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for victims of this atrocity.
On June 12, 2016, 29-year-old Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a mass shooting, after which he swore allegiance to ISIS during a 911 call. The attack was at the time the deadliest single gunman mass shooting in United States history, the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history, and the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the September 11 attacks of 2001.

Three months later, the city of Orlando agreed to buy the nightclub for $2.25 million. Mayor Buddy Dyer expressed plans to convert the nightclub into a memorial to honour the memory of the victims but the owner Barbara Poma refused to sell the club. She announced instead her own plan for a permanent memorial and museum to commemorate both the survivors and lives lost.

She said that the initiative would be funded by the onePULSE foundation, a non-profit organisation where Poma serves as Executive Director and CEO. "Today, I'm able to share with you what I believe is news that will help in our mission of healing. It isn't easy for me to stand on this site. What began as a place for fun and joy is now sacred ground."
The Pulse Nightclub Memorial (c) OutUK
Today, the site of the nightclub has developed into a makeshift memorial filled with colorful artwork, flowers, and vigils. The onePULSE foundation are completing plans for a new permanent memorial. While many construction details have still to be made public, the foundation said Pulse will no longer exist as a nightclub.

They are soliciting input from survivors and victims' families. They hope that once the memorial is complete it will be followed by the construction of a museum which will contain stories and artifacts from the massacre. The foundation continues to provide financial assistance to victims of the shooting. In addition to construction costs, donations go towards an educational fund, community grants for the victims. families, and scholarships for the deceased.

The Pulse Nightclub Memorial (c) OutUK
Over the years the foundation received generous support from high-profile figures, including Andy Cohen, Ellen DeGeneres, and Lady Gaga. Lance Bass and NBA player Jason Collins also serve on the foundation's board of trustees. In 2018, the county awarded $10 million in Tourist Development Tax dollars for the land purchase and design of the onePULSE museum.

The Pulse Nightclub Memorial (c) OutUK
onePULSE's mission is to create and support a memorial that opens hearts, a museum that opens minds, educational programs that open eyes and legacy scholarships that open doors. Its vision is to establish a sanctuary of healing and a beacon of hope by memorialising lives taken, lives saved, and lives affected by the tragedy.
The events of 12th June 2016 and the aftermath

OutUK's OutGoing Guide to Orlando


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