ORLANDO, Fla. (WTXF/AP) - The owner of the Florida nightclub where the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place said Monday she is no longer interested in selling the property to the city of Orlando.
Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma said in a statement that she can't walk away from the property, where 49 people were killed and dozens more injured during a massacre last June. Gunman Omar Mateen, who was killed in a shootout with SWAT team members after a three-hour standoff, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
Poma said she plans to use the space to create a "sanctuary of hope" and a welcoming area where people can reflect on those affected by the tragedy.
"I feel a personal obligation to ensure that a permanent space at Pulse be created so that all generations to come will remember those affected by, and taken on, June 12," she said.
Last month, the city of Orlando announced plans to purchase Pulse and eventually convert it into a memorial. The city had planned to pay $2.25 million for the gay nightclub property.
City spokeswoman Cassandra Lafser said in a statement that city officials respect Poma's decision "and are hopeful the Pulse site continues to be a place of hope and healing that honors the victims."
Since the June massacre, dozens of people stop by each day to lay flowers, stuffed animals or candles outside the nightclub located south of downtown.
Philadelphia student athlete Akyra Murray, 18, who'd just graduated from West Catholic Prep High School, was among the victims. She'd even signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Mercyhurst College and play basketball on a full athletic scholarship.
Her friend, FOX 29 intern Patience Carter, survived the Pulse nightclub massacre. She was shot in her leg and described her ordeal.
Carter was also on vacation in Orlando with her best friend, Tiara Parker, who was Murray's cousin.
When the shooting started, Akyra and Patience made it out. They went back inside to find Parker when they were trapped in the bathroom with the shooter.
Orlando city staffers will continue to research how other communities have built memorials to tragedies, Lafser said.
"We believe it is important for the community to have input into a memorial that honors the victims and pays tribute to the resiliency of Orlando," she said.
This is Barbara Poma’s complete statement:
“I have decided not to sell the Pulse property. Pulse means so very much to my family and to our community, and I can't just walk away. I feel a personal obligation to ensure that a permanent space at Pulse be created so that all generations to come will remember those affected by, and taken on, June 12th.
“I intend to create a space for everyone, a sanctuary of hope, and a welcoming area to remember all those affected by the tragedy. I plan to do that directly with the involvement of the communities impacted by this tragedy, the families of the victims and any private or public sector individuals or organizations who wish to assist. We must do this together as a community.
“I hope the love and support we have seen through this time from around the world and here at home will continue as we join together to build a place to memorialize our Angels."