ORLANDO, Fla. - Neema Bahrami vowed that Pulse Orlando “is here to stay.”
The crowd erupted into cheers as the Pulse Orlando employee stood with dozens of his co-workers during a vigil in downtown Orlando Monday night as the community and the nation continued to cope with the massacre that unfolded inside the club.
“We want you to know, we are not leaving,” Bahrami shouted to the thousands in attendance. “We will be bigger and better than you can ever imagine. We will not be defeated!”
“We are feeling the love, and the love is here tonight,” he continued. “Our condolences to all the family members and to all the people injured. We love you. We are here for you. We are 100 percent behind you.”
Founders Barbara Poma and Ron Legler reiterated that message of rebuilding for Pulse, which has been a staple of Orlando’s LGBT community for more than a decade.
“We opened Pulse to be a place of pride. A place that you feel you belong. A place where you felt safe,” Legler said. “We are going to rebuild that Pulse.”
The reaction from the community about what should happen with the club remains mixed.
For Patrick McLain, 22, it was the first gay club he went to when he moved to Orlando. And it quickly became a place where he felt at home.
For him, if the club doesn’t reopen the gunman wins with, as McLain puts it, “the fear he was trying to instill in us.”
Chrystal Sandi, 33, went to Pulse regularly with her fiancee after going there on their first date.
But Sandi doesn’t want to see it reopened as a club. She suggests turning it into a memorial and outreach center for the LGBT community.
“Let it be a place where people can come to comfort each other,” she said.
Joel Morales, who frequents Pulse with his boyfriend, doesn’t want to see it closed down.
“If that happens, they win. It will be a lot for people right now,” Morales said. “[But] it’s important to keep the Pulse going.”