PULSE NIGHTCLUB, ORLANDO, FL- When Gil and I arrived in Orlando, Tio Raul drove by the Pulse Nightclub memorial set up a few streets away from where the tragedy happened three weeks ago. Tia Teresa asked him to stop so we could pay our respects. She had not wanted to go by herself and asked if we would join her. My husband and I exchanged doubtful looks. A part of me wanted to give my condolences in some way to the 49 victims, but the other part of me felt like I would not be able to handle what I was about to see.
Reluctantly, we stepped out of the car and took in the temporary memorial. 49 white crosses were in a row with the victim’s name, age, and photo. Messages, paintings, flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, and other memorabilia were left at each one. Sharpie pens laid on the sidewalk where anyone could leave a message of hope or a prayer. LGBTQIA+ and Puerto Rican flags flew at half-mast by a tree.
During the walk around the memorial, we noticed more tributes. Wooden stars had been painted and hung on the railing surrounding the lake with notes of peace and love. More flags flew and several pieces of art were displayed. People cried and prayed while we looked on. The 9/11 memorial felt nothing like this. Here was a community shaken to the core by an act of terrorism. The shooter did not understand the meaning of tolerance, and many questions still need to be answered for the families of these 49 souls.
My heart felt heavy knowing most of the victims were in their twenties. Life was just beginning for them. I saw the photo of the mother who gave her life for her son, and the recent high school graduate. Lin- Manuel Miranda’s lyrics from Hamilton came to mind: “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” How will these individuals’ stories be told considering they all have the same ending? Reality hit me seeing those 49 crosses in person. Life can be taken away from us in an instant. What will we be remembered for? These angels were enjoying life the night everything was taken from them.
We returned to the car and passed Pulse Nightclub. The entrance was overflowing with flowers, flags, banners, balloons, photographs, and candles. It was swamped with people, so Titi decided not to stop. As we continued to drive through Orlando, banners were displayed on every street proclaiming “Orlando Strong.” The message was on every local business, restaurant, and attraction billboard. A giant ribbon with the colors of the rainbow was hanging at City Hall. I had never seen a community come together like this, and it was bittersweet.
Photos: Rosa Elena Burgos
Last Updated: December 28, 2021