Orlando Magic Dedicate Opening Night to Pulse Victims
By John Denton
Oct. 26, 2016
ORLANDO -- Similar to when Orlando was horrified by the mass murders at the Pulse nightclub in June and then proud of how the city bonded together to unite as one, there figures to be a wide range of powerful emotions tonight at the Amway Center.
Prior to the regular-season-opener against the rival Miami Heat, the Orlando Magic will remember the 49 victims of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and honor the first-responders who prevented further loss of life with a series of tributes.
A No. 49 banner – inscribed with each of the names of the victims – will be raised to the rafters at the Amway Center and a moment of silence will be held as well. Survivors of the attacks, family members of the victims and Pulse employees will be on hand as guests of the Magic.
Also, a video will be shown highlighting the community’s unity following the horrific events of June 12. First responders from the night of the attacks will be recognized and honored as ``Hometown Heroes’’ in a pregame ceremony that should be filled with emotion.
``I will be shocked if there’s a dry eye in the audience tonight,’’ said Magic CEO Alex Martins, who served as the head of the board of directors for the OneOrlando Fund following the tragedy. ``Our team did a phenomenal job of putting together the tribute video and we’ve invited all of the victims and the first-responders, so we’ve got a couple of hundred guests from that tragic evening. So it’s going to be an emotional night, for sure.’’
In the days and weeks after the tragedy, Orlando and the Central Florida community came together to pay tribute to those who had died. In addition to a series of memorials, people in the community, various businesses and sports franchises such as the Magic, Orlando City Soccer Club and the Orlando Solar Bears offered up millions of dollars to support the families who lost loved ones. The OneOrlando Fund ultimately raised $29.5 million, which was recently distributed to 299 families of victims and survivors of the attacks.
Martins said that Orlando should be extremely proud of how it rallied together during the tough times and showed tremendous unity.
``I couldn’t be more proud of this community,’’ Martins said. ``There are two things that really bring a community together, in my opinion, and that’s tragedy and sports. Tonight, we have an opportunity to remember and honor those who were the most impacted by the tragedy by utilizing the platforms that we have so that we don’t forget.’’
Martins said the idea of having a No. 49 banner hanging from the rafters of the Amway Center is especially important. He feels the effectiveness of the tribute will live on for years to come.
``It will symbolize that we will never forget,’’ Martins said. ``We’ve designed a banner with the No. 49 and all of the names of the victims are inscribed inside the numbers. It will be our way of making sure that we don’t forget those who lost their lives in this tragedy.
``This was an event that shook our community and shook our country – we’re talking about the largest mass shooting in the history of our country,’’ Martins continued. ``So it shook our community, but it also brought our community together. I think tonight will be symbolic of how our community has come together since then and how it continues to remember those who were the most impacted. It’s amazing to see the numbers of banners and signs hung up – even new ones that continue to go up all around our city – and it’s great that we’re not forgetting and we’re remembering those most impacted.’’