Tuesday, December 13, 2016

2:02am at Pulse.

December 12, 2016 at 2:02am, Barbara Poma, the owner of the Pulse nightclub opened the gate to the fence that surrounds the club. It was exactly six months since the horrific mass shooting that killed 49 Orlando citizens. Friends and family of victims were invited inside for a private memorial candlelight service. A Pulse employee handed out rainbow ribbons to everyone in line. There was a small Christmas Tree outside the had ornaments for each of the 49 victims. As family and friends entered the gate, they had to empty their pockets and then go through a metal detector search. I sat on a stone bench right next to the entry door. In this exact spot I once comforted a friend who had too much to drink about nine years ago.

Cut out stars and candles were arranged on the pavement inside the perimeter in a pulse shaped pattern. Couples hugged each other and everyone stood facing the building. A woman I didn't know hugged me and said she couldn't wait to see the sketch. She returned to her girlfriend in the crowd. A purple neon circle illuminated the spot above the entry. We were told not to go near the door since it was alarmed. I returned outside to join the line of TV news cameras. Cory James Connell's parents Tara and James Connell gave me a hug and a handshake. Tara said she was doing fine until they got to the club. She looked across the street with trepidation and then they walked across and entered the gate. As I sketched I could hear crying from behind the art decorated fence. Someone was wailing, bereft. My heart broke.

Afterward Tara told me that the six month memorial had been done right. Some memorial items were left inside and a bright rainbow sign was left for Cory. It was all so sad. I gave Tara a hug. She invited me to Woodlawn Cemetery that evening where her son was buried. Three other victims of the Pulse shooting were buried right beside him. A couple was buried to his right and the third to his left. At dusk they were having a service and would release Japanese floating lanterns in his honor. Tara gave directions to the grave site but there were so many twists and turns in the directions that I knew I was going to be lost. She confessed that she gets turned around when she goes. They went to their SUV, but James returned and gave me abbreviated directions. They both waved as they drove away. I wasn't alone. I love that family.

"When a wave of love takes over a human being... such an exaltation takes him that he knows he has put his finger on the pulse of the great secret and the great answer."
~Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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