ORLANDO, Fla. - Beyond the glowing entry sign at the Orange County Regional History Center are tissues.
Many visitors to the Pulse remembrance exhibition need them, for this journey back in time is sorrowful. Hopeful perhaps, yet heartbreaking.
Community: Five Years After the Pulse Tragedy, examines how communities of all kinds were touched both locally and across the globe.
"This is an event that never leaves our community. It will always be embedded in our history," explained executive director, Pamela Schwartz. "That survivorship is forever."
The exhibition begins with a glimpse into what Pulse Nightclub was before: a modern, welcoming lounge of libation and freedom, with glittering stage productions and a posh white piano that entertained thousands since 2004.
It was not just a nightclub, but for many, a home.
"The 5-year is hitting differently than the second, third, fourth year. There’s just something about the fifth year that seems like a milestone, making the initial shootings both so close yet so far away," Schwartz added.
Our camera isn’t allowed in the next portion of the exhibition.
"Because there is some sensitive content. We don’t go into any graphic details, but we recognize that some of the stakeholders and survivors and families might not want to re-engage," Schwartz said.
What follows that room is one filled with trinkets and emotional messages to the 49 victims from the memorials that popped up around the city in the days after the massacre.
Outside the Orlando Regional Medical Center, a child’s drawing of first responders and the words, "Thank you for your help." Another confesses, "We have cried many tears, our hearts are broken."
From the eighth floor of Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, "For those fallen and their loved ones, you will never be forgotten."
And from around Lake Eola, "Although you are not physically here, please continue to be our messengers of love and light. Have fun dancing and singing in the heavens."
The exhibition goes beyond our neighborhoods, presenting signs of support from around the world -- so many messages of condolences in fact, that the history center developed an ever-growing digital display to interact with them.
"The reaction we’ve gotten so far is that this is beautiful," Schwartz said.
At the final stop of this somber walk-through is a fractal heart, where each of those 49 innocent victims is remembered by name and by face.
Nearby, a piece of art reminding us all: "For those who just wanted to dance, our pulse will always beat for you. We are Orlando Strong."
The exhibit is open now through August 15, 2021.
Watch FOX 35 News for more coverage of the 5-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting.