Roughly six months before my daughter was born — on the early morning of June 12th, 2016 — the unfortunate events of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting took place in Orlando, Florida. 49 innocent people were slain. 58 others were injured. Hundreds of lives were changed forever.
Fast-forward to almost four years later. I was driving through downtown Orlando with my daughter, brainstorming about a unique place I could take her for lunch. I got off at the Anderson St. exit and made my way into the SODO neighborhood, just south of downtown O-Town. As I took a right-hand turn onto Orange Avenue, Pulse nightclub came to mind. Not as a possible lunch spot, but to see what had become of the site.
I hadn’t been in this area of town for a few years. With intentions only to drive by and glance at Pulse’s old location, I drove my car towards where I knew the nightclub once was. At first, I thought I had driven past it and assumed the club had been razed, making way for one of the many new structures that lines this portion of Orange Ave.
As I was looking ahead at an approaching intersection, I noticed a familiar landmark — a Dunkin’ (Donuts). I remembered that this coffee shop had once sat next to Pulse. I then gazed slightly north, and there it was.
What I saw immediately made me pull-over, park at the Dunkin’, then sit in its parking lot. It was there that I took in the entire scene of Pulse as it sits today. I could see what appeared to be an impressive memorial, which seemed to have been kept alive throughout the nearly four years since the infamous night there.
As we sat parked, I internally debated getting my daughter out of the car and visiting the site with her. I knew that if she asked me “what is this?” or “who’s this?” or “where are we?” I wouldn’t be able to tell her the truth. Not at her age. She’s only three.
After a few more moments of indecisive stalling, my daughter said to me “I wanna go over there,” pointing out of her window in the direction of Pulse. Admittedly, I wanted to go over there too.
I got out of the car, unbuckled my daughter, reached for her grip, and we held hands as we began crossing the parking lot over to the closed nightclub. Here is what we saw.
Surrounding Pulse nightclub are a few rows of fence. All of it is respectfully decorated with memories of those who lost their lives, along with scenes of the Orlando community showing their support.
Here, my daughter can be seen glancing up at a portion of the wall memorial which displays every victim’s name.
My daughter and some of the more colorful areas of the commemorating wall. Pictured are the thousands of people who showed their support at various vigils, which took place throughout Central Florida.
The original Pulse nightclub sign still stands. Surrounding each corner of its pillars, and reaching an estimated 10 feet high, is a white wall constructed for visitors to leave their thoughts.
There is a weather-proof stash-box for permanent markers attached to the wall. This is where I chose to leave my mark.
In a few select portions of the wall, glass gives the onlooker a peek into the former nightclub’s exterior.
Here, glass gives us a view to a portion of Pulse’s back wall. It was this section of wall that Orlando Police Department’s SWAT team broke through using a BearCat armored vehicle. 14 SWAT officers then entered the wall and took down the shooter, thus ending the hostage situation and completing their mission.
In memory and tribute to: all of those whose lives were lost; all of those who were innocently and/or bravely involved; and to all of the families who were affected by what took place here on June 12th, 2016.
As we remembered the #Pulse49, thanks for making it so easy to remember just how lucky I am to be your Dad.
I love you,