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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

49 crosses for Pulse victims moved from hospital to history center

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 at 3:16 AM

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
In the weeks after June 12, mourners went to several spots around Orlando to mourn the 49 people lost at the gay nightclub Pulse, and one of the most iconic spots was created after artist Greg Zanis traveled from his Illinois home to bring 49 white wooden crosses and placed them near a lake at Orlando Regional Medical Center. 

Local officials and volunteers moved those crosses and the mementos surrounding them in ceremonies to the Orange County Regional History Center for preservation on Tuesday.  

"In recognition of the extraordinary service rendered to the victims and the injured, we will never forget the sacrifice, and we will never forget the compassion, the caring and the unity that this entire community has displayed," Mayor Teresa Jacobs says at one of ceremonies for the crosses. "Through the permanent care-taking of these cross, which will forever stand as silent, but powerful reminders that love wins."

The history center started the One Orlando Collection Initiative about two weeks ago by collecting physical items mourners left for Pulse victims at memorial sites and preserving them. Michael Perkins, who manages the museum at the history center, says collecting the items has been an emotional and physically demanding endeavor for his staff. 

Terry DeCarlo, executive director of the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida, was originally set to start a new job in Miami before the Pulse mass shooting happened. He has since decided to stay in his position, and on Tuesday, he says that while he's still hurting, he has begun to heal. 

"We will never forget the names of the 49 that are here in front of you, the 53 that were shot, and the thousands and thousands that were affected by this senseless tragedy," he says. "May this stay here for all to see forever as a reminder that we must stand up and fight against hate in any form."
  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Laly Santiago-Leon was there to honor her cousin Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon and his partner, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, who were both killed at Pulse. Jacobs and DeCarlo helped her switch crosses so that Wilson-Leon and Mendez Perez could be next to each other, as they were in life. 

"They'd been together eight years," she says. "Their dreams were to buy a house, travel the world, just like anyone else...I wanted to make sure they were together."

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