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Crime

Pulse Nightclub Owner Unveils Plans for Memorial: ‘We Will Not Let Hate Win’

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Pulse nightclub
AP Photo/John Raoux

The site of the Orlando nightclub where 49 people were killed last June 12 in the nation’s deadliest mass shooting will become a permanent memorial to the lives lost, the club’s owner said today.

“We will not let hate win,” Barbara Poma, who co-founded the gay-friendly Pulse nightclub, said in announcing plans for the memorial at an Orlando news conference in front of the still-shuttered building.

“I know once it’s unveiled and we have it here, [it will] be a place of comfort,” Poma said in a video that accompanied her announcement. “But I know in 100 years, it should be a place of education, and a place of change, and of remembrance. And so I hope we aren’t giving people labels and calling them by their sexuality.”

“I just hope that becomes erased,” said Poma, who named the club to honor the memory of her brother, John, who died in 1991 from AIDS. “And I hope that children grow up in a much kinder, more loving atmosphere. I just really want it to create change.”

Nearly a year after the attack, the nightclub site on Orlando’s main downtown thoroughfare, in a busy commercial and business district, remains a place of regular mourning, decorated by candles and tributes and murals celebrating the lives of the victims.

Planners of the memorial envision “a living, breathing, iconic urban planning project in the memory of the 49 people that were taken, the 68 survivors, the first responders, and the brilliant medical people that saved so many lives,” said attorney Earl Crittenden, who will serve as chairman of the board of trustees for the onePulse Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to raise funds to build, endow, maintain and create scholarships that will be part of the memorial project.

Others on the board include singer Lance Bass, formerly with the Orlando-based N*Sync, and retired NBA player Jason Collins, the first athlete in America’s four major sports leagues to come out as gay while he was an active player.

The exact outlines of the memorial and what elements — such as a museum — it might include will be guided by the board of trustees working with “significant community engagement from volunteers including victims’ families and survivors,” according to a statement announcing the national memorial.

Poma has consulted with foundations that helped support the creation of the Oklahoma City bombing memorial and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, and said she hopes to open the Pulse memorial in 2020.

“I could never walk away from this,” she said. “I really feel passionate about being honored to do this for these families, and for our community.”