Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tiffany Johnson Bartending at Pulse on June 12, 2016

There is sensitive content and disturbing details included within. If you feel you may be affected, please do not read this post.

Tiffany Johnson was bar tending the Pulse Nightclub patio bar on the night of the attack on June 12, 2016. Pulse was a second job, her fun job. She also worked at the Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. She would go straight from Dr. Phillips to her evening shift at Pulse.  She  was introduced to the club by a friend named Ryan who asked her to come see him dance. Ryan also let her know that they were hiring bartenders and she applied for the job. Neema Bahrami interviewed her and she started in 2015 as a bartender on call. Pulse felt comfortable, and she knew Ryan, so it was like family. By June, she was starting to work Saturdays with another bartender on the Pulse patio.

On the evening of June 11, 2016 Tiffany was working at Dr. Phillips as usual. The show that night let out late though she couldn't remember what it was.  When she got to Pulse, the other bartender was already doing her thing. It was a busy night but not super busy. Fringe had just ended so the night was slow in comparison. She took a cellphone photo of the crowd dancing.

A little after 2 a.m. the bartenders stopped after last call. Tiffany's computer had broken, so she was sharing a computer with the other bartender. Tiffany texted her boyfriend "Lets go eat." She went to the bathroom and cut through the VIP area to get back up front. Brian was talking to her as she gathered her sales slips. In mid sentence, as he spoke to her, two shots went off. Then the shots just started. She saw out of her periphery and then ran to the outside corner of the bar. She was frozen. The music was still going. She could hear people running and screaming. Then Ryan shouted, "Everybody out!" She snapped back into reality and ran out, thinking, 'please don't shoot me in the back.' Somebody was running with her. "What the hell is going on?" she asked. "I don't know, someone is shooting." he countered. His car was in the parking lot. She shouted at him, "Is this your car?" "Get in the car lets go!" They drove around the neighborhood. She doesn't smoke, but she started chain smoking his Newport's. She tried to get him to take her to her friend's house, but she was too distraught to give directions. She called her boyfriend who was working in a downtown club.

By this time sirens could be heard approaching. They parked at McDonald's, which is just south of Pulse on Orange Avenue. People were coming into McDonald's covered in blood. There weren't major injures, but the blood might have been from other people who had been shot. A bum started asking people for money. Couldn't he see what was going on? She went off on him. The other person she rode with's friend made it to McDonald's to meet them. "Can you just drop me off Downtown?" she asked him. Then she looked down at her hands and she realized she was still clutching her credit card slips. She had been holding them all this time. The friend dropped her off on Garland Avenue and she ran to the Beacham Theater where her boyfriend worked. The bouncer didn't let her in, at first thinking she might just be some distraught drunk girl. When she saw her boyfriend she broke down and cried. They went back to Pulse together but couldn't get close. She wanted to recover her car and belongings. The police said to, "Take her home." She couldn't sleep that night, it was horrible.

She didn't have her house key, phone, car, or any of her belongings. Her friends got some clothes for her. She basically lived in her Pulse t shirt for a week. She was helpless and didn't know what to do. The police interview took about half an hour. They could not let her know when she could get her car and it put her in a really weird place. She finally got a call  that she could pick up her car a week and a half later. There was human matter on the hood. A friend of hers details cars, so they traded cars and he got it deep cleaned for her. Inside some Michael Kors merchandise had literally melted.

It took about a month for the full magnitude of what happened to hit her. She couldn't go to the Dr. Phillips vigil, she wasn't ready. That Thursday there was a fundraiser at Southern Nights and that was an emotional night. That Friday they all met a Neema's house. She did get to the Lake Eola Vigil. Over time she learned who had survived and who died that night. Camping World Stadium assistance wasn't too complicated, it was just weird that she had to do it. Southwest airlines sent her home for two weeks. On the second day at Camping World, she got her purse back. She had to sketch out where she had been that night.

Orlando had showed up in strength that first week and a half. She felt proud to live here. She was invited with some survivors to Boston. That particular group got very close. The parade was amazing. It was good to get away and finally relax. Sometimes when the survivors get together and start talking about that evening, she just has to remove herself from the conversation.

Barbara Poma invited some of the Pulse staff to return to the building and go inside. Tiffany didn't have a chance to go back to the patio where she worked that night because someone had tried to break into the building and the area was blocked off. To her, it seemed eerie inside. It did nothing for her. She kind of wished that she just remembered the place as it used to be, but now there was this new memory. Tiffany started bartending again when Pulse employees started holding events at The Abbey. It felt OK because she was with everyone. She has a new family since that evening. That is the best part of the whole shitty mess.

This article and sketch have been posted with the express written permission of the interviewee. Analog Artist Digital World takes the privacy and wishes of individuals very seriously.


Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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