Today has been difficult to say the least.
As I logged onto facebook this morning, and I knew that I would see al the reminders of what happened, reminders of 49 lives taken too soon. I won’t ever forget laying in bed next to my wife (then fiance) getting up at 5am to both of our phones buzzing uncontrollably. “Where are you?? Are you okay?!” At 5am, I woke up confused – what had happened? “There’s been a shooting” – Sam told me – “No that was yesterday.. Christina Grimmie was shot” I said, reliving the events of the previous day. “No, at Pulse – There was a shooting last night at Pulse”.
Not another shooting..
I worked at our other gay club for about a year and knew the majority of the bartenders who would swap back and forth between clubs depending on what night it was.
At 5am my heart sunk. I’m okay, but what about all of my friends and my Orlando community and all the people I have come to call my family? Of course, the guilt and anger came followed by panic over the people we couldn’t get ahold of by noon. Sam’s cousin was out all night for a friends birthday and Pulse was on the normal list of stops for a party. They decided last minute not to go. A friend of mine was trapped in the dressing room while he huddled with strangers and barricaded the doorway to try to keep out the sounds of gunshots. Another few friends were bartenders who escaped while bullets flew over their heads. Another friend was hit in the leg. My friend Ray was the DJ that night. While working the light booth at Southern Nights, I got to know him as a DJ, a father, and a nice guy. I got to know his son as well. Ray saved so many people that night by turning off the music and helping people escape. Several of the victims were students at Valencia and UCF, and a few worked at Universal and Disney, all strong communities that were shattered in a single night, the latin community, most of all.
I can’t help but to feel so overwhelmed with emotions.
Today my friend Danielle was out in the community touching up the paint on one of our many Pulse tribute murals and I sat at work helpless and full of so many feelings.
Sam and I went to the memorials and stood in the rain several times after it happened. We visited pulse while the bullet holes were still visible on the sides of the building where so many lost their lives and suddenly I felt so heavy and helpless. We got pulse tattoos as a reminder (as if we needed it) permanently on our bodies. We cried, not due to pain, but due to immense gratitude that we were all able to be together when so many had that option taken away.
So many people have been affected by Pulse. Our entire gay community was targeted and we lost brothers and sisters and friends. Even if we didn’t know anyone personally, it felt like a personal attack on our family. We have all been to Pulse and to Southern. They are our safe havens and our home away from home. A place where we could go to have a good time and not feel threatened when we hold hands with our partners in public. It is here where we feel most at peace and the most accepted, when we are surrounded by the family we chose, and the friends who we can openly and honestly be ourselves around. We’ve grown up with people from this community and we are here for each other now more than ever, no matter our differences.
I want you to know, whoever you are reading this, that you are not alone in your feelings. Your emotions are valid. It’s okay to feel today. I think a lot of us are still healing and that’s okay. I felt like I needed to share a part of my story today because I can’t seem to hold back my tears anymore. I’ve never seen a community come together like this before and Orlando will forever hold a piece of my heart.