Florida organizations, officials mark four years since Pulse

ABOVE: Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (R) and City Commissioner Patty Sheehan (L) June 12, 2020. Photo courtesy Mayor Dyer.

Elected officials and organizations throughout Central Florida and Tampa Bay reflected on the Pulse tragedy June 12, honoring those killed in Orlando four years ago today.

Bells tolled around the world in an annual remembrance at noon. The One Orlando Alliance, the coalition formed in response to Pulse, presented a pre-recorded ceremony featuring remarks and a reading of the 49 names.


“Thank you for watching our virtual 49 bell toll ceremony today. To continue with our day of remembrance we asked Survivors of the Pulse tragedy how they’d like to see people #ActLoveGive,” they subsequently shared. See the responses below:

“June 12 is known as Orlando United Day – A Day of Love and Kindness and is dedicated to honoring the memory of the 49 taken, supporting survivors and recognizing the compassion and love displayed by our community,” the onePULSE Foundation shared. The foundation, alliance and the City of Orlando and Orange County government support the collaboration.

“Pulse was always such a fantastic night out,” Foundation Board Secretary Kelly Lafferman also reflected. “I joined a group of friends there a few times … I remember the laughs. I remember the music. I remember the people dancing. But most of all I remember the love. The sense of belonging and total acceptance that seemed to instantly envelop everyone who walked in the door.”

“Four years have now passed, but our community’s commitment to honoring the 49 angels and supporting the survivors, families of those taken and first responders remains strong,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer shared.

“On this day, and every day, we remember the innocent lives taken at Pulse on June 12, 2016,” he reflected further. “That day deeply impacted Orlando’s LGBTQ+, Latinx and other communities of color, as well as our entire community. But we didn’t allow for one hateful act to define us, because we responded with love. This morning I met Commissioner Patty Sheehan to visit the memorial labyrinth at our Colonialtown Square Park before heading to Greenwood Cemetery. There we joined District 1 Commissioner: Jim Gray, Commissioner Tony Ortiz, District 3 Commissioner: Robert F. Stuart and Chief Barksdale and Chief Rolón to pay our respects to the four victims buried there.”

“We will never forget,” Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan wrote. “Love wins! Say their names.”

“Four years have passed since we suffered the worst tragedy in the history of our city,” State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith shared. “49 lives were taken at Pulse Orlando nightclub, but they remain forever in our hearts and memories. Orlando’s LGBTQ, black, and Latinx communities have demonstrated incredible resolve and survivors have worked to make our world more equal.”

“Sending love to all LGBTQ+ people and our Orlando family as we mark four years since the Pulse tragedy,” State Rep. Anna Eskamani added. “Thinking of those directly impacted, those who lost loved ones and those who survived. We will forever honor those who are no longer with us through action, and will lead with love. #HonorThemWithAction”

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto reflected on the four-year mark with a video. “As our community marks four years since the Pulse shooting, we honor the 49 lost & 53 injured with action,” he wrote. “Our bill with U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy and U.S. Representative Val Demings to designate the Pulse nightclub a National Memorial Site will be voted on by the House this June. #OrlandoStrong” Watch:

In Tampa Bay, Empath Partners in Care (EPIC) also held a virtual bell ceremony. “Today, we honor the 49 beautiful lives that were cut short due to a senseless, hateful act of violence,” the organization shared. Watch:

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor also reflected on the four-year mark. “4 years since Pulse,” Kriseman wrote. “4 years since we gathered on the steps of City Hall to denounce such violence. Hate has no home here. It will never win.”

“Four years after the tragic shooting at Pulse, we honor the 49 victims that were overwhelmingly young, LGBTQ, people of color – and victims of hate violence everywhere – with a call to action: vote, engage, speak-out, and stand-up,” Castor shared.

U.S. Rep Charlie Crist released a video message. “On the 4th Anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, I want to share my thoughts on the meaning of this painful day and join with you commemorating the 49 lives we lost,” he wrote. Watch:

Many of the organizations and officials echoed Equality Florida, which introduced the national #HonorThemWithAction campaign to ensure “the lasting memorial of the 2016 Pulse massacre is the real change of uprooting hatred, discrimination and violence of all kinds.”

“This year, as we prepare for one of the most important elections of our lifetime, we’re asking you to honor the 49 victims by making a plan to vote,” the organization shared. “Register to get your ballot by mail. Sign up to volunteer. Get educated on the issues. And when the time comes – VOTE. For the victims of Pulse and hate violence across the nation.”

Learn more about the initiative by visiting HonorThemWithAction.org and reading more below:

The Florida LGBTQ Democratic Caucus, which represents the interests of LGBTQ Floridians as an arm of the state’s Democratic Party, echoed the need for action in a statement. “The massacre of our LGBTQ+ family four years ago brought worldwide attention to the pervasiveness of guns in America and the hatred that fuels violence against communities of color,” President Stephen Gaskill shared. “We still mourn for the 49 individuals who lost their lives at Pulse. Time hasn’t healed those wounds, nor let us forget them.

“The inescapable fact is that bigotry and racism are the underlying causes of those murders and countless others on our streets and across our country,” he continued. “We must commit to real change and action to end systemic racism, homophobia, and transphobia to achieve full equality. Voting is one way to make real change. That’s how we’ll honor those lost at Pulse, and those lost everyday in lesser known tragedies.”

While COVID-19 has limited in-person commemorations, organizations throughout Central Florida will hold virtual memorials to reflect on Pulse’s four-year mark. Read more here. On this four-year mark and every day, Watermark remembers Pulse – we will update this and other features with more information as it becomes available.

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