Orlando Remembers the #Pulse Victims


Isaiah Peters

Rock sculpture honors the memories of the #49 who lost their lives one year ago.

Hundreds visited the Pulse Memorial today to honor the lives that were taken exactly one year ago, and to pay respects to the families that were affected by the tragedy.  Gatherers showed support and shared messages to heal, love and unite.

Flowers with the message “#OrlandoUnited” were given out along with inspirational notes that were attached to hand-knitted hearts. Visitors painted wooden hearts and stones and placed them near the memorial. Children and adults gathered around the sidewalks of the building to create messages such as “love is love” and “one love” in spray paint and chalk. The rock garden by the entrance of the memorial was also on display to encourage healing for all.

Melissa King stood with her wife, Lori King, to speak to attendees about the rock garden they created throughout the months after the shooting.

“A rock has no gender, no sexuality, no religion, race, nothing. It’s just a connection that everybody has as one human race,” Melissa King said as she explained the significance behind using rocks to put the piece together. The Kings visit the site once or twice a month for anyone who is willing to add a LGBTQ-friendly painted stone to the garden.

Above all, the event drew plenty of emotions from many in the community who came to honor their brothers and sisters who lost their lives.

Samy Santana, an employee from the nearby art store, Sam Flax, voiced her opinion on the event. “It made us stronger…that’s the only thing I feel right now, its strength,” Santana said.

Another visitor, Ren Downs, also talked about her personal attachment to Pulse.

Downs said, “It means a lot to someone who is apart of the LGBT community. I woke up a year ago today, and I just cried all day because it was so close to home.” Downs shared how moving she thinks the one year remembrance is as the unity went from regular people to even churches.

Downs’ friend, Deren Lee, was also willing to share her feelings about the Pulse Memorial.

Close to tears behind her sunglasses and choking up, Lee slowly added, “It means a lot to me…because I recently came out to my mom a couple months ago, so we’re still talking about that and working through everything. She’s been really supportive. She’s just trying to understand”.

To ensure privacy to those who were personally affected, the media was denied access into the main area where candles and flowers were placed along a wall with pictures of the victims.

There will be more to come tonight.  Speeches from guest speakers and performances from the LGBTQ community at Lake Eola begin at 7 p.m.