On June 12, 2016, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In the unthinkable tragedy, 49 people died and and 53 others were injured, making it the worst mass shooting in modern American history. It is hard to imagine such a magnitude of loss, harder still to accurately quantify the depth and breadth of the pain the victims’ families.
People across the globe came together in the wake of the hate crime in order to spread love and acceptance to those in the LGBTQIA community. Now, the Orlando City soccer club, Orlando’s Major League Soccer men’s team, and the Orlando Pride, the city’s National Women’s Soccer League team, have added their tribute with a lasting memorial to the men and women who lost their lives in what was supposed to be a place of celebration and refuge.
Stadium officials recently unveiled 49 special seats in the clubs’ new stadium that are designed to look like the rainbow flag, which has historically been a symbol of the gay community. Since 1978, the rainbow flag has stood for pride and diversity, as each of the colors of the rainbow symbolize the unique gender orientations and sexual preferences found within each of us.
The seats are in section 12 to commemorate the date, June 12, of the massacre.
The tribute is powerful in its simplicity. The quiet, stately memorial speaks volumes about the tragedy, and about the bravery, unity and love that helped to reunite Orlando and the LGBTQIA community after the tragedy.
The memorial is just one of many that have been erected in honor of the Pulse nightclub victims. Renowned muralist Michael Owen painted a tribute across the street from Pulse:
Artists such as Sia offered musical tributes in memory of the men and women who were lost:
The Orlando Magic wore #OrlandoUnited shirts with rainbow-colored hearts and remained silent with heads bowed during the national anthem following the shooting. A lasting image was also added to the stadium, with an OrlandoUnited flag hung from the rafters to forever honor those who were senselessly taken last year. You can watch the unveiling of the flag here:
Rest in peace, friends.