ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orange County Regional History Center is preserving memorials honoring the 49 victims of the mass shooting at the Orlando club.
The Orlando Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/2cd4gcd) the curators have carefully collected more than 3,500 items related to the massacre.
At least once a week, history center staffers visit the still-growing memorial outside Pulse to collect pictures, posters and other tributes before they are lost to the Florida sun and rain.
Museum officials say most people who contributed to the memorials had never met any of the victims but were compelled to honor them.
“It’s obviously a historical event,” curator Pam Schwartz said of the mass shooting, the worst in U.S. history. “But the community’s response has been so immense that it’s really its own event.”
They gathered hundreds of stuffed animals, notes and drawings, along with blessed prayer beads, a rainbow-painted flamingo and a copy of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” an anthem for the gay community.
“It’s hard to say what we’re going to end up with here,” Schwartz said, standing in a humidity-controlled warehouse filled with the artifacts.
The center has no immediate plans to display the collection, but it may include a few items in an upcoming exhibit.
Too distraught to visit Pulse where their daughter died weeks earlier, Deonka Deidre Drayton’s parents turned instead to the History Center.
“I think it’s very important what they’re doing,” said Deonka’s father, Shepherd Drayton Sr.
The center arranged for Shepherd’s family to see some of the memorials unique to their daughter. He asked for the private viewing in July, explaining that they had traveled from home in South Carolina.
“Being a man of faith, I saw that cross and thought of all the good people who wrote on it or who left flowers or left notes or other things,” her father said. “It was deeply moving to us as a family to feel that support, that love for our daughter.”
The objects in the collection were retrieved not only from the club but wherever memorials sprouted: the tiny park beside Orlando Regional Medical Center, the lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and Lake Eola Park.
“Everything in this collection is special in some way,” said museum staffer Whitney Broadaway, examining an array of objects.
Curators were permitted to take a bullet-damaged door to the gender-neutral bathroom at the club, where people tried to hide from the shooter, and asked Orlando Regional Medical Center surgical resident Dr. Joshua Corsa for the pair of week-old shoes he wore during his shift the night of the shooting.
Corsa, who helped treat 54 people at the hospital after the shooting, had posted a photo of the bloodstained shoes on Facebook, which drew national attention. He vowed to keep wearing them until the last Pulse patient went home. One remains.
“This touched thousands of lives,” said Michael Perkins, manager of the center’s museum. “We are trying to preserve it for generations.”
Information from: Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/