Pulse Orlando Night Club Founded in Memory of Owner's Brother: 'Where He Is Kept Alive in the Eyes of His Friends and Family'

The club opened in 2004, more than a decade after John Poma's death

Photo: Gerardo Mora/Getty

In 1991, Barbara Poma’s older brother John died after battling AIDS. In 2004, Poma and her friend Ron Legler founded Pulse Orlando in memory of John. For Poma and many others, Pulse is described as “more than ‘just another gay club.’ ”

According to police, a shooter opened fire just after 2 a.m. local time on Sunday at Pulse, a popular gay club south of downtown Orlando. An officer working at the club initially responded to the shooter, “engaging in the gun battle with the suspect” before the suspect went back into the club, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said at a Sunday morning news conference. Authorities say that at least 50 people have been killed and at least 53 are injured, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

But the club, which became a tragic scene, was founded as a place of “acceptance and love.”

“Being raised in a strict Italian family, being gay was frowned upon,” Poma says on the Pulse Orlando website says. “However, when John came out to his family and friends, the family dynamic transitioned from a culture of strict tradition to one of acceptance and love.”

The name “Pulse” is derived from the idea of John’s heartbeat “reverberating throughout the club.” As a memoriam to her brother and safe space, the venue also served as the location for community events in support of the LGBT community, according to its website. The event on the night of the attacks was “Latin Night,” according to the club’s Facebook page. Hours after the club opened on Saturday night, the page updated its status to read, “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”

“It was important to create an atmosphere that embraced the gay lifestyle with d cor that would make John proud,” the website says. “Most importantly, (we) coined the name Pulse for John’s heartbeat – as a club that is John’s inspiration, where he is kept alive in the eyes of his friends and family.”

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