Sunday, May 7, 2017

One Orlando Task Force Announced.

On May 4th, a small stage was set up inside the protective fencing at Pulse nightclub. A long line of TV cameras was already set up to catch the early morning press announcement.  Getting to go inside the fenced area involved a metal detector and a full search of all my art supplies. The micron pens were inspected closely and as I raised my arms for the final metal detector wand sweep, a photographer shot photos. For the next half hour reporters milled about. I set up in front of a large container of ice. I figured  it might offer some air conditioning as the sun rose higher in the morning sky. I was blinded at first, but knew the sun would rise up behind an overhanging branch that would offer shade.

A chorus sang, Bridge over Troubled Water, Somewhere over the Rainbow, and Seasons of Love. Then Andrea Day's voice sang Rise Up, offering hope and inspiration in the abandoned lot. Angels were on stage and at the back of the lot near the TV cameras. Barbara Poma and a board member took to the stage. Several videos gave the crowd a felling for how Pulse had been a place of acceptance and a place where anyone could be themselves. Barbara briefly talked about how important Pulse had been to her. She lost her brother to aids and that loss became the inception of the club's name. Now that the scene is the site of a horrible loss of 49 lives, Barbara recognized that the site must become a memorial that serves all of Orlando's communities.

People from around the country are rising up to support this task force. Rock stars and Hollywood actors are among the names that are behind the process of building something that might bring healing to the city. For some reason Cindi Lauper's name sticks in my mind. But this morning wasn't about politics or the of names of celebrities, it was about giving back to the community as it comes to terms with immeasurable loss.  Barbara read a long list of the people she needed to thank for getting the task force to where it is today. I felt pride for friends and co-workers who were on the list. Although the meeting was for the media, it was also for families directly affected by the tragedy.  Each chair in the audience had the name of someone who was a member of the task force, or whose voice might inspire the new creative initiative.

Family of victims, survivors, and first responders are all being given a questionnaire crafted by artist Jefri, that asks their opinions about what they hope to see on the site where the dark empty shell of a building now stands. Questions might range from, What emotional impact should the site leave on a visitor? Should it inspire hope for the future or should it express the loss that the community still feels and will feel for years to come? Should the site have water features, trees, color or be monochrome, how can a memorial best serve the community? An international design competition is being considered to help find the design that will best express what the community feels. All family of victims have a voice, and meetings have begin to set the process in motion. Barbara acknowledged that they are learning as they go and the process will be a long one. Barbara and others went to the 9/11 memorial, and  Oklahoma City memorial to get a feel of what can be done and ask how to accomplish the task. Some of the audio at the Oklahoma site was too hard to hear so soon after Pulse.

This meeting was just the first step on a long road to find beauty and perhaps hope in such a scene of devastating loss.  Outside, at the curb facing the street, three people held a long rainbow banner that said, Gays Against Guns. I considered a second sketch but was l was ready emotionally drained. The fence was again the site of many items left behind by people coming to terms with the tragedy. We are fast approaching 525,600 minutes since the shooting that began around 2am on June 12th at Pulse, Orlando has rallied and continues to answer the tragedy with love.

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