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  • Writer's pictureZachary Blair

The Pulse Museum is Dead; A True Public Memorial Is Not Guaranteed

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

This was my response to the horrible commentary published in the Orlando Sentinel that suggested the City of Orlando follows the lead of the privatized 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Of course, the Orlando Sentinel didn't publish my response to this "Deltona-based entrepreneur."

The 49 Families Should Lead the Public Pulse Memorial

The purchase of the Pulse Nightclub by the City of Orlando felt rushed. Days after it was publicly announced, the City Council voted to give $2M to the property owners knowing it was more than the property was worth. One of those owners, Barbara Poma, had already taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary through the onePULSE Foundation, which failed at its mission to produce either a museum or a memorial but succeeded in taking the families and survivors on a 7.5-year roller-coaster ride through hell.

Now, we are finally on track to have a public memorial for the 49 murdered at Pulse.

But Never Forget.

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum helped to create the mess we were forced to endure and should NOT serve as a model for memorializing mass murder. Paid executives from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum have supported the onePULSE Foundation and helped legitimize their “capital projects” to turn a mass shooting into Orlando’s next attraction.

Anthony Gardner, Former SVP of Government and Community Affairs at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is still on the OnePULSE Foundation’s Chairman’s Ambassador’s Council even after onePULSE has abandoned both the memorial and museum.

Turning a mass shooting into a $100M memorial-museum campus for tourism was never a good idea. Pulse families and survivors have been resisting since the museum was announced in 2019, just like 9/11 families also protested the exhibition and monetization of their tragedy. However, unlike in Orlando, these 9/11 families were bypassed and the powers that be successfully transformed mass murder into an industry worth millions in New York City.

The only people who should have a say in the future public Pulse memorial are the 49 families. Not the taxpayers, the OnePULSE Foundation, the so-called “experts,” and definitely not local politicians.

The 49 families have been put through enough over the past 7.5 years. They should lead this process without interference from anyone.

If the City can spend $2M of taxpayer money to purchase the Pulse property without taxpayer input, then the 49 families should be able to design the memorial that they want for their murdered children, brothers, sisters, and partners—without taxpayer input.

Give them a budget, offer them guidance, and get out of their way. Empower the 49 families to lead the design of a public memorial.

There should be no nonprofits involved in the memorial and its future management. It is because of nonprofits that the onePULSE Foundation succeeded in wasting public dollars and revictimizing mass shooting victims. It is because the City relied on nonprofits that a memorial was never built in the past 7.5 years since the shooting.

Lastly, Mayor Buddy Dyer and Commissioner Patty Sheehan should not try to use this moment as an opportunity to gain political clout as they live out their final years in public office. This is not about their legacy. If they want to do something for the families and survivors, they can start by telling the truth about the unpermitted renovations and code violations at the Pulse Nightclub that hindered escape and rescue. 

If they want to continue to say publicly that the City did not know about these issues, despite records that prove otherwise, then they can get a building inspection done as soon as possible by an independent third party and make the results of this inspection public.

That is what they can do for the victims' families and survivors now that the property is in the possession of the City. They can find out and thoroughly document the truth.

There is absolutely nothing preventing them from helping victims and survivors get the justice they deserve—other than the City's unwillingness to implicate itself in the possible legal issues surrounding code enforcement failures, building code violations, and the 3-hour police response.



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