ORLANDO, Fla. - As plans for a National Pulse Memorial and Museum enter into the final design stage, some survivors of the mass shooting and relatives of some of the victims are against it.
"He’s being robbed of his dignity by making him a circus sideshow. This museum they’re just using the deaths to showcase," said Christine Leinonen who still mourns the loss of her son, Christopher. He was killed in the Pulse tragedy six years ago.
Leinonen is now part of the Community Coalition Against Pulse Museum. She thinks it’s wrong for the onePULSE Foundation to build a museum and even created a petition. "When I first started the Change.org petition, I got over 45,000 signatures from people who were just disgusted." She said donations to the museum should be going to victims instead.
The onePulse Foundation released this statement saying:
"OnePULSE Foundation has embarked on a new three-year strategic plan and enters the next crucial phases of the final design, construction, and operation of The National Pulse Memorial & Museum and Orlando Health Survivors Walk. Complementing a national memorial that will honor and remember the 49 Angels and serve as a sanctuary of healing for all those affected, the museum serves as the venue for the history of the story, so it can be told for future generations. It will serve as an important place to tell the detailed individual stories of the victims and survivors, the response from the world, and for dialogue and education to help us realize our promise that ‘We will not let hate win!’"
There will be an impactful, immersive educational component. In addition to the Pulse Nightclub story and the detailed stories of the victims, survivors, and first responders, there is also history to be told regarding what safe spaces mean for the LGBTQ+ community. It will also extend to conversations about things like terrorism, faith, immigration, cultural beliefs and practices, the response from the world, and how to effect change at the individual, group, and community levels.
The Pulse Museum will eventually utilize artifacts and images from a variety of sources including its internal collection, artists, photographers, and the Orange County Regional History Center’s collection, as well as the possibility of loans from other institutions globally. There are thousands of artifacts from and related to the Pulse tragedy, including items left behind from the community, artwork, family, and survivor mementos. The Pulse building itself is the largest artifact.
"Having a permanent museum and memorial will have it here in the community, so people can go on a daily basis," said George Wallace, CEO of the LGBTQ+ Center. He said there are many against and for the museum. "It will offer educational opportunities, it will offer a place for people to gather that they didn’t have before."
Pulse survivor Orlando Torres agrees, but added, "It’s a disrespect that those who are living are waiting so long for something to be built."
Leinonen plans to fight the museum being built, for the sake of her son. "They may as well just take this Pulse Museum and put it snap dab in the middle of Disney World and just call it what it is, a tourist attraction."
However, the onePULSE Foundation said The National Pulse Memorial and Museum and Orlando Health Survivors Walk will be a sanctuary of healing for everyone. A link to Leinonen's petition can be found here.