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Before Shooting, Pulse Known As Safe Place For Orlando's Young LGBT Community

Pulse now is known across the globe as the site of profound acts of horror and heroism.

But it once was a humble nightclub offering fun, community and acceptance for some of the youngest and newest members of Orlando's LGBT community.

It's Latin night at Pulse, and the bass is throbbing.

Bodies work beneath the disco lights in a YouTube video dated March 2015. Some dancers hold their hands high. Evan Trombitas could have been among them.

"The second you walk through those doors you are transported into just the most beautiful, happy place ever."

Trombitas was a Pulse regular since coming out nearly 10 years ago.

"It's a place where you can go with your gay friends, with your straight friends. It's a place where everyone is welcome. The music is going. It's just a beautiful, beautiful place."

It was his freshman year at the University of Central Florida. Trombitas was searching for himself and others like him. He met his first boyfriend there. They dated for two years.

"You kind of go through your day at UCF feeling like you're the odd man out or kind of just feeling different from everyone else. And it sounds not silly, but when you're that young and just kind of learning about yourself, to have a place that you knew every single Wednesday night and Saturday night, it wasn't even a question. It was, what time are we leaving?"

For many of central Florida's LGBT community who are in their late teens and early 20s Pulse was the place to go to have fun and feel safe. It's why so many who died in last week's massacre were so young. More than half of the shooting's 49 victims were younger than 30.

"Many young people coming to terms with who they are in their sexual orientation or in their gender identity and expression can feel isolated and alone and think, Nobody else is like me. There's no one else here to help me. And then they will contemplate suicide."

Michael Slaymaker is president of the Orlando Youth Alliance, an organization for the region's LGBT youth. He describes Pulse as an important sanctuary for that age group.

"They get to meet the other people, their own peers and find out, I'm not alone. There are whole bunches of other people who are just like me and going to help me and join me in this journey of life and help me crystalize as to who I am as an individual.

Pulse was established some 13 years ago by Barbara Poma, who wanted to create an outreach for the central Florida's LGBT community after her brother died of AIDS. She explained the club's name during an interview on the Today show.

"Because it has to do with your heartbeat. It has to do with your life, and we just wanted to keep the heartbeat alive."

Pulse's future is uncertain. Co-owner Ron Legler at an Orlando vigil promised the club would be rebuilt. But some in the community like Slaymaker feel re-opening the club would be too painful.

Kiyla Paterson was another Pulse regular.

"I just hope the ramifications of this is not that people fear coming out even more so than they would have before and that they're able to take courage from this."

More than a week after the worst mass shooting in modern American history Pulse remains a crime scene. The roads around it have just started to open.

Even the owners have not been able to return, and a club spokeswoman says it's too soon know how Pulse's heartbeat will continue.

Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.