Orange County Government, Florida

ORANGE COUNTY RESPONDS TO PULSE TRAGEDY

The Central Florida community remains Orlando United after the tragic Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting on June 12, when a gunman killed 49 people and injured 68 others. It is considered the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman and the deadliest incident of violence against the LGBTQ community in modern U.S. history. The Pulse tragedy is also considered the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

ONE ORLANDO COLLECTION – ORANGE COUNTY REGIONAL HISTORY CENTER

Since the tragedy, Orange County’s History Center estimates that they have collected nearly 5,000 pieces, curated from the numerous memorials established throughout Orange County. The History Center serves as the repository and caretaker for the physical tribute items, which will continue to be collected and handled with great dignity as part of the One Orlando Collection Initiative. The initiative is a partnership between Orange County and the City of Orlando established to preserve history and properly care for the many thousands of tribute items created in response to the tragic loss of life that occurred at Pulse nightclub.

To preserve memorial items for the long-term memory of our community and to create a comprehensive historical record for current and future generations, Orange County’s Regional History Center is regularly photographing, cataloguing, removing and preserving the tribute items and mementoes from the public memorial sites throughout Central Florida. The Center serves as the repository and caretaker for the physical tribute items, which will be collected and handled with great dignity. The collection includes large, very public displays of condolences including the 49 white tribute crosses from Orlando Regional Medical Center and an iconic IKEA sofa which was placed at the Dr. Phillips Center of Performing Arts memorial site that is now covered in signatures and messages of love.

RESPONSE TO PULSE TRAGEDY


In the aftermath of the Pulse tragedy, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, City of Orlando Police Chief John Mina, FBI officials and members of local law enforcement held press conferences to provide updates to the community about the ongoing investigation. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also visited Orlando where they were greeted by Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Bill Nelson, Sen. Marco Rubio, Mayor Jacobs and Mayor Dyer. They visited with the families of the 49 victims at the Amway Center and also paid their respects by laying white roses at the memorial on the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where President Obama addressed the nation on the tragedy.

To help the community heal and soothe the pain of those impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting, Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dogs were also deployed to Orange County in the weeks following the tragedy. Golden Retrievers from all over the United States traveled to Orlando to comfort survivors in the hospital, families of the victims, Pulse employees, first responders and members of the community. Among those who received a visit from these furry friends were employees at the Orange County District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office and the Orange County Government Administration Center.

The Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office worked around the clock to identify, autopsy and reunite the 49 victims of the Pulse tragedy with their families. By June 16, all 49 deceased victims had been released to their loved ones.

ORANGE COUNTY AND INTER-FAITH LEADERS UNITE TO SUPPORT LGBTQ COMMUNITY

A week after the Pulse tragedy, in tribute to the lives lost at the shooting and in support of freedom worldwide, Section 93 of the Sea-to-Sea Rainbow Flag was proudly displayed at the Orange County Government Administration Center on June 16 and 17, 2016. Mayor Jacobs held a commemorative ceremony on June 17 to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub tragedy and to celebrate what the flag symbolizes in the LGBTQ community—acceptance, understanding, education, solidarity and inclusion.

In partnership with LGBTQ representatives, faith leaders and other officials from throughout Central Florida, Mayor Jacobs also hosted an inter-faith press conference on June 15 to showcase the strong support from faith-based leaders for the grieving families, and to issue a call for peace and unity during the upcoming funerals, which began that evening.

The community held countless vigils to honor the lives of the 49 Pulse victims. The Tuesday after the Pulse tragedy, hundreds convened at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to join elected officials and civic leaders to mourn the loss together. On Sunday, June 19, more than 50,000 residents came together at Lake Eola Park to celebrate unity and love at a heartfelt candlelight vigil. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando also held a Spanish vigil at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on June 29 to honor Latinos and all the lives that were taken so tragically on June 12. Mayor Jacobs attended these and many more vigils to support the friends, families of victims and survivors.

CENTRAL FLORIDA SPORTS TEAMS STAND #ORLANDOUNITED

In the weeks following the Pulse tragedy, the Central Florida sports teams especially stood #OrlandoUnited with the community. At Orlando City Soccer Club’s first Orlando home game since the Pulse Orlando tragedy, the team and stadium attendees paid tribute to the 49 victims who lost their lives and survivors in a pre-match ceremony against the San Jose Earthquakes. The game also featured Major League Soccer’s first-ever moment of silence during the match’s 49th minute. Mayor Jacobs joined Mayor Dyer, Orlando City Founder and President Phil Rawlins, Pulse employees, first responders and community leaders on the field at Camping World Stadium during halftime. The group stood Orlando Strong and held the #OrlandoUnited banner together in honor of those who lost their lives on June 12.

Other Central Florida sports teams that paid tribute to the Pulse victims include the Orlando Pride, Orlando Magic, Orlando Predators and Orlando Solar Bears. These teams also partnered with Orlando City Soccer to benefit victims’ families and survivors through T-shirt sales and fundraising efforts for the OneOrlando Fund.

ORLANDO UNITED ASSISTANCE CENTER

On June 23, in partnership with Disney, AT&T, Orange County Government and the City of Orlando, the Orlando United Assistance Center (OUAC) officially opened its doors to serve those affected by the Pulse nightclub tragedy. Orange County Facilities and Information System Services staff, the City of Orlando, AT&T employees, and Walt Disney World Resort volunteers worked tirelessly to give the facility a much-needed—and impressively speedy—makeover. The OUAC continues to operate under the direction of Heart of Florida United Way, where they manage all daily functional activities of the center, including the oversight of the building and its staff and partnerships with various service providers.

ONE ORLANDO COLLECTION AT DR. PHILLIPS CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

On July 18, Orange County Regional History Center staff completed their One Orlando memorial collection efforts at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts' Seneff Arts Plaza. All items were catalogued and photographed prior to their long-term preservation as part of the One Orlando Collection Initiative. The Orange County Facilities Management team also worked tirelessly to manage the dignified and careful removal of thousands of deteriorated flowers from the memorials related to the Pulse tragedy. The flowers have been collected and moved to Leu Gardens, where—through composting—they organically turned them into soil that will be used to nourish the gardens throughout the City of Orlando. A local uniformed Central Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America troop also performed the dignified removal of hundreds of American flags from the site, along with Puerto Rican and other official flags. The flags will be properly retired by the American Legion.

To share a photo, memory, story or video, please contact Orange County Regional History Center at oneorlandocollection@ocfl.net.