PHOTOS: PULSE NIGHTCLUB MEMORIAL
It was Zak who suggested that we come here. We'd met just moments before at a session on fandom inclusivity at a Star Wars convention in Orlando. Zak invited everyone who was interested to go to Pulse as a group, so we did. Four of us went back to our hotel rooms to change out of our costumes and we met up at the nightclub. The site is now a memorial to the people who were killed and injured when a gunman opened fire inside the club on June 12, 2016.
I didn't want to take photos at first because I thought it might cheapen the memorial and the work of the grieving community who made it. But as I stood before it and felt the weight of what happened here for the first time since the day I read about it on the news, it occurred to me that someone might decide to destroy, deface, or defile the space for any number of hateful reasons. And so I took these pictures to preserve what I saw. I've decided to share these photos with you today, on the one-year anniversary of the attack.
Above: the memorial's centrepiece, with a candle for each of the 49 victims. Judging by the condition of the flowers, the memorial is well-kept and visited regularly.
Above: attendees were enjoying Latin Night at Pulse when the attack happened. Their names are listed on a plaque.
This post is for you, but also for those who died that night. Read their names, learn how to pronounce them, and look at how young some of them were. Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda L. Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Jean Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, 37 years old
Luis Sergio Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old Read more about them and watch their obituary video here.
Above: a panorama of the memorial site as it was on the evening of April 15, 2017.
Above: Neema Bahrami was the nightclub manager. He survived the attack.
Above: visitors leave messages of love, hope, and strength on this part of the memorial.
At the time of visiting, I was feeling hopeless about the state of the world and my ability to change it. But when I read the messages of solidarity left by other people, they reignited my rage and called me back to action. Because this is what happens when we give up.
We weren't the only people visiting the memorial. There were at least two other groups of people there at the same time as us. Someone else showed us where the pens were that we could use to leave our own contributions to the wall. So I wrote a promise, to continue the fight for racialized queer liberation.
It's not about me at all, and yet it is. I owe it to my racialized queer siblings to educate about queer and trans issues, to spread messages of love and acceptance, to push back against the people and institutions that would deny us our humanity, and to strengthen the path that queer people of colour have built for us.
Above: the memorial features this beautiful hand-drawn map of Orlando.
Above: a seasonal message. It was Easter weekend when I visited.
I'm not sure how long we stayed at the memorial, but it felt like a very long time. We walked around and looked at all the different pieces and we left messages of our own. We silently stood side-by-side, each of us deep in thought, but connected by the deeply personal impact we felt.
It was a comfort that in bleak times like this, we can still find queer solidarity, even among strangers. We walked around and looked at everything again.
Above: banners adorn the sign of the nightclub, draped with flags and photographs.
Above: the number 53 acknowledges the people who were injured but not killed in the attack. Click here to donate to the survivors and their families.
Above: the nightclub is permanently closed, but the memorial carries the victims' legacies and reminds us of who we are fighting for.