Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Pulse.

While driving down Orange Avenue to hang the 49 Pulse Portraits at the Cardboard Art Festival, I passed Pulse for the first time since the horrific shooting. I parked in the SODO Shopping Center where the Cardboard Art Festival is located, an then walked back north to Pulse, three blocks away.

Pulse has become a destination where people from around the world, come to leave an offering and pay their respects. Personally I find the Mylar balloon with hearts for eyes and a smile disturbing. There was a constant stream of people taking photos and reading the names of those lost. A banner had a painting of the Dali Lama that said, "my religion is kindness." I positioned my set in the only spot with shade from the black fabric that obstructed a direct view of the building. A wooden skid had color paint swatches arranged in a rainbow with the names of the fallen on each swatch. Above the skid, was a tear in the fence's fabric. People tended to stay clear of me, perhaps thinking I was an attendant, but a few walked up to the tear to peak inside. There was a cooler opposite me show people get thirsty. On the ground, candles were arranged in a pulse pattern. The candles closest to me were flattened from being stepped on. When people first arrive they approach, the skid to red the names. Twice I watch people step on the candles. One girl couldn't get the hot wax off of her sandals. A sign announced that the Orlando History Center collects Pulse memorabilia for their archives. The decaying scene is constantly changing and the regular afternoon thunderstorms speed up the process. Paper and cardboard signs quickly fall apart.

An hour into doing this sketch, I swear I began to smell death and decay. In my old home, rats would occasionally get caught in the walls, and the smell is quite distinct. Perhaps I was smelling mold on the teddy bears or the smell of wilted flowers, but it definitely smelled like death. Smell is my weakest sense so it must have been pronounced. I have a friend who lives right behind the 7-11 across the street. She said, the bodies were placed behind a fast food establishment, and to transport them, simple everyday vans were used. She remembered the feeling of dread every time a van passed her house. She never counted, but it felt like an endless procession. Fire Station #5 is located one block from Pulse. Some people who were shot, ran to the firehouse, but firefighters couldn't open the doors until they were given the all clear. With the sound of gunfire, the firefighters could not treat the wounded until police arrived. Once the doors were opened they immediately found bloodied victims hiding from the shooter behind the brick walls of the firehouse. They found a man shot to in the abdomen. They transported him inside firehouse and stabilized him. This relatively calm area soul of downtown Orlando had become a war zone.


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