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Orlando council agrees to purchase Pulse Nightclub for permanent memorial site

Myra Alvear, whose daughter Amanda was one of 49 people killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting, urged the Orlando City Council to purchase the site for a permanent memorial.
Joe Byrnes
Myra Alvear, whose daughter Amanda was one of 49 people killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting, urged the Orlando City Council to purchase the site for a permanent memorial.

The Orlando City Council agreed Monday to buy the Pulse Nightclub, the former LGBTQ+ dance club where 49 people were killed in a mass shooting in June 2016.

The city will seek to honor them with a permanent memorial on the site, which is at 1912 S. Orange Ave.

During lengthy public comment, the City Council heard from family members of Pulse victims.

Mayra Lisette Alvear's daughter Amanda was among those killed in the club. The mother said she has devoted her heart and soul to a memorial for "our angels."

"Imagine the relief when the city announced that they wanted to acquire the club," Avreal said. "We felt like a heavy burden had been lifted from our hearts. We could breathe again. And we are imploring that the purchase will get your approval."

Siclaly "Laly" Santiago-Leon of Brevard County carries the driver's license of her cousin Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, who was killed in the massacre.

After the vote, Santiago-Leon said she's thankful the city is buying the site with plans for a permanent memorial there.

"For a lot of us, that's what we have, to go and visit and pay our respects," she said. "I can't see another building or another company come in and develop it."

Pulse Nightclub
Joe Byrnes
Visitors were at the existing memorial at the Pulse Nightclub Monday ahead of a vote by the City Council to purchase the site for $2 million.

Some speakers raised allegations of a city coverup and claims of permit violations at the club. They objected to paying $2 million to the property owners, who include Barbara Poma, the founder of the OnePulse Foundation.

Maritza Gomez, one of the Pulse survivors, said she thinks there should be a criminal investigation.

Commissioner Patty Sheehan said the city needed to acquire the property to move forward and honor the victims, as their families want.

She defended her own response and the city's response to the tragedy.

"I never, ever thought I would experience anything like that, and I will never, ever be able to get out of my head the screams of those mothers as they found out their children had died when I was on the street with them," Sheehan said during the meeting. "So don't tell me that I don't care, that I don't feel this."

Commissioner Jim Gray said he thought the $2 million price tag was too high for the value of the property. But in the end, he too voted in favor of the purchase.

The Orlando mayor has promised to work with victims' families on a memorial that honors their dead and pays tribute to the city's resiliency.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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