Rebounding after tragedy: Will Orlando's Pulse nightclub reopen?

Story highlights

  • Nightclub owner: "Pulse will always continue to be the heartbeat of Orlando"
  • Many other sites of mass shootings have eventually reopened afterwards

(CNN)As Orlando police begin wrapping up their crime scene investigation, little is certain about the fate of the Pulse nightclub where a gunman killed 49 people earlier this month.

But owner Barbara Poma insists the club will reopen.
It must, she says.
    On Tuesday, semblances of normalcy returned to this stretch of Orange Avenue just south of The City Beautiful's downtown. All businesses except for Pulse and the nearby Dunkin' Donuts and Pro Tint & Detailing were permitted to reopen, police said. All the roads surrounding the site of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history were also opened to traffic for the first time in a week and a half.
    The media scrum and police cars that had occupied this part of town thinned out, and police removed some of the black tarp they put up to keep people from peering into the property as they conducted their investigation.
    "Once the crime scene is released, the owner can take back the building, but (the Orlando Police Department) does not have to give anyone permission to do what they wish with the building and the business," said OPD spokeswoman Michelle Guido. Reopening the club is a matter left to Poma's discretion, she said.
    But Pulse is more than just a club to Poma and many in Orlando's gay community. Since 2004, it has been considered a safe place for Orlando's LGBT residents to socialize, drink and dance. The club regularly hosted events geared toward that community, and sought "to raise the bar of awareness" about LGBT lifestyles.
    Poma opened it as a tribute to her brother, John, who introduced Poma to the city's club scene when she was 14, according to a short biography that once graced the club's website (which now serves as a landing page for donations to assist Pulse employees).
    Poma's big brother did her makeup, highlighted her hair and taught her everything she needed to know about fashion, the bio said. Thirteen years after John died from HIV, Poma and co-founder Ron Legler opened Pulse in his honor.
    They "coined the name Pulse for John's heartbeat -- as a club that is John's inspiration, where he is kept alive in the eyes of his friends and family."
    So, it won't surprise anyone that Poma said in an interview with "Today" that she has "to go back to that club" and that a reborn Pulse will honor the families of all 49 victims.
    "Pulse will always continue to be the heartbeat of Orlando," she told the morning show.
    Poma's spokeswoman Sara Brady told CNN it's premature to know the details of the reopening. It remained under the control of police as of Tuesday, and Poma has yet to survey the extent of the damage.
    "She does intend to ensure that Pulse and its mission will return," Brady said. "She just doesn't know yet what that will be."
    While the city waits for the reopening, Poma and the Pulse staff plan to host a street party on Thursday "to show that the heartbeat of Orlando continues," Poma said in a news release.
    The party, at and outside WildSide BBQ & Grille on Washington Street in Orlando, will feature Pulse performers "dancing and entertaining throughout the night." Part of the street will be closed for the event.
    Poma isn't the first to face an emotional decision about when and whether to reopen. Here's a look at what became of other sites of U.S. mass shootings:

    Virginia Tech

    On the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, a 23-year-old student went on a shooting spree, killing 32 people in two locations and wounding many others before committing suicide.
    After renovations to repair the damage done by the 23-year-old gunman who killed 32 people on campus in 2007, Norris Hall quickly reopened. Rather than classrooms, it now houses the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention and offices and labs for the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics. The West Ambler Johnston residence hall, where the shooter killed two of his victims, remains a dormitory. It came into the spotlight again this year when two of its residents were accused of killing a 13-year-old in Blacksburg. At the school's drill field, 300-pound "Hokie Stones" bear the names of the five faculty and 27 students killed at West AJ and Norris Hall.

    Sandy Hook

    A 20-year-old gunman killed 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and six school staff and faculty before turning the gun on himself. Investigators later found the shooter's mother dead from a gunshot wound.
    After a gunman killed his mother, 20 children and six staff and faculty of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, classes were suspended until the following January. When students returned, it wasn't to Sandy Hook, but to Chalk Hill Middle School. Sandy Hook was razed to make way for a new school that is slated open in the fall.

    Luby's in Killeen

    In Killeen, Texas, a 35-year-old man crashed his pickup truck through the wall of a Luby's Cafeteria. After exiting the truck, he shot and killed 23 people, then committed suicide.
    More than 100 people were having lunch at the popular cafe in Killeen, Texas, in October 1991 when a 35-year-old gunman drove through a window before opening fire on the eatery's patrons. He killed 23 people and then himself. Luby's remained open until 2000. The building still sits on a busy highway in Killeen, though today it is host to a Chinese restaurant with a lunch buffet.

    San Ysidro

    In San Ysidro, California, a 41-year-old shot and killed 21 adults and children at a local McDonald's. A police sharpshooter killed the gunman an hour after the rampage began.
    In 1984, a 41-year-old armed with a long-barreled Uzi, a shotgun and a handgun killed 21 children and adults at a McDonald's before police ended the rampage by killing the gunman. The McDonald's was later torn down, and a Southwestern College satellite was built there. In 1990, a pyramid monument composed of 21 hexagonal pillars was built in honor of the victims.

    University of Texas Tower

    At the University of Texas in Austin, a 25-year-old killed 16 people and wounded at least 30 more after killing his mother and wife earlier in the day. Police killed the man in the tower from which he exacted his 1966 massacre.
    In 1966, a former U.S. Marine with a rifle killed 16 people while firing shots from the University of Texas Tower in Austin. Police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy killed the gunman while he was still in the tower, and police learned later the shooter had killed his wife and mother earlier in the day. In 1998, the University of Texas announced it would reopen the deck from which the gunman shot his victims. It now has security guards and a lattice fence.

    San Bernardino

    A married couple opened fire on an employee gathering at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, killing 14 people on December 2, 2014.
    After a December 2015 shooting massacre that left 14 people dead at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, the center was forced to shut down for weeks. Employees returned to work in January, but the center now has several new rules in place. Unannounced visits to the facility are no longer allowed, and visitors are required to supply the names of anyone who accompanies them to their appointments. Those arriving for their appointments are directed to a single entrance where they are pre-screened by security guards in the parking lot. They are screened again in the main lobby before entering the main building, and escorts accompany visitors throughout their appointments.

    Fort Hood

    An Army major killed 13 people and injured 32 at Fort Hood, Texas, during a 2009 shooting rampage. In 2013 a jury panel recommended he be put to death.
    An Army major and psychiatrist went on a shooting rampage in November 2009, killing 13 people and wounding 32 more at the largest active-duty military post in the country. The shooter has since been convicted and sentenced to death. Thanks to about $400,000 in donations, a memorial was erected near the Killeen Civic and Conference Center to honor the victims. Sculptor and Vietnam veteran Troy Kelley said he wanted to make sure future generations did not forget what happened, "but most of all I wanted to honor the victims that through no fault of their own gave their life on that horrible day."


    Two students, 17 and 18, carrying guns and bombs, opened fire inside Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. They killed 13 people and wounded 23 others before killing themselves.
    Two teenagers killed 13 people and wounded 23 more at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in April 1999. Ten of the victims died in the school's library. HOPE Columbine, a group made up of the victims' families and friends, wanted the library removed from the school, and the school board obliged. The library was transformed into an atrium with a mountain view, murals and hanging clouds incorporated into its design. A new library was constructed elsewhere on campus.


    The Century 16 movie theater is where a gunman attacked moviegoers during a screening of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado.  Twelve people were killed and 70 injured.
    Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured when a gunman opened fire on a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012. Last year, the gunman pleaded guilty to all 165 counts against him, including 24 counts of first-degree murder and 140 counts attempted murder, and was sentenced to life in prison. Cinemark reopened the theater six months later amid criticism and outrage. Some families boycotted invitations to remembrance ceremonies, but other families said they felt visiting the theater helped provide closure.


    Nine churchgoers, all African-American, were shot by a young, white man who entered their Charleston, South Carolina, church, joined their Bible study for an hour and then opened fire.
    A young, white man entered the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June 2015 and, after joining a Bible study class, opened fire and killed nine parishioners. This month, on the anniversary of the shootings, the church opened its doors for a series of events commemorating the victims. One of those events -- a Wednesday Bible study, the same event at which the victims were slain, drew 150 people. It was led by the Rev. Anthony Thompson, whose wife was one of those victims. The church has asked people to perform acts of kindness Tuesday as "Acts of Amazing Grace Day" and share their good deeds on its Facebook page.