Pulse Nightclub Victims Remembered Four Years Later

The "Human Beings" representing the 49 lives lost at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando at last year's Gays Against Guns remembrance of the 2016 massacre.
Donna Aceto

Several vigils — with an emphasis on keeping things virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic — are scheduled on June 12 to remember the 49 lives lost four years ago at the Pulse massacre in Orlando, Florida.

At least two remembrances are based in Orlando, while Gays Against Guns, the group that formed in the immediate aftermath of the Pulse massacre, is holding an in-person event here in New York that will be livestreamed.

One Orlando Alliance, which is a coalition empowering queer organizations in Central Florida, rang 49 virtual bells on Facebook at noon on June 12 to commemorate the massacre’s anniversary.

Gays Against Guns, onePULSE Foundation among groups hosting events today

At 7 p.m., the onePULSE Foundation will hold a virtual version of its annual remembrance ceremony at the site of Pulse. Usually, families of victims gather at the site of the Pulse nightclub to remember their loved ones, but this year the event will be a pre-recorded program during which all 49 names will be read and remarks will be delivered by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings, onePULSE Foundation board chair Earl Crittenden, and onePULSE Foundation founder and CEO Barbara Poma, who owned the nightclub.The mayors will also read poems written by Orlando-based poet Susan Lilley, who penned two original poems dedicated to first responders and survivors. There will, as well, be performances by actor, and Broadway star Norm Lewis and singer/ songwriter Yaire. Faith leaders will also be on hand.

Gays Against Guns appeared in the 2016 Pride March just days after the Orlando tragedy.Donna Aceto

Gays Against Guns, which held a remembrance event on the same day last year outside the Stonewall Inn in conjunction with the Anti-Violence Project and Voices4, is hosting its own event at 6:30 p.m. at Sheridan Square and it will be broadcast live on Facebook.

“We will honor them with action,” the group wrote. “We will say their names. Why? Because we know that direct action draws attention to the issue and saves lives. We know that saying their names keeps the conversation going. We know that saying their names is a form of prayer. We know that conversation is prayer. We know that this is not our fight alone. Like the fight for racial equality, ending the public health crisis of gun violence is everyone’s fight.”

Barbara Poma, the Pulse nightclub owner, visited the LGBT Memorial in Hudson River Park in 2018 as part of her work in establishing a permanent memorial to the Pulse tragedy in Orlando.Donna Aceto

The group, formed at the initiative of Kevin Hertzog and Brian Worth, first made its presence known at New York City Pride in 2016, the same month as the Pulse massacre, when nearly 1,000 people marched down Fifth Avenue behind a wide Rainbow-colored banner, designed by Gilbert Baker, that read “GAYS AGAINST GUNS.”

In the four years since, the group has staged numerous public actions aimed at the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby, investors with significant holdings in gun manufacturers, and elected officials in New York and Washington, DC who support the NRA.

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