Sunday, February 16, 2020

Terry DiCarlo

 This post discusses the shooting that took place at the Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016. It contains difficult content, so please do not read on if you feel you may be effected. 

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

Terry DiCarlo was the Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Central Florida at the time of the Pulse Massacre. Before June 12, 2016, the Center had 3 employees, Terry, a clinical director and a bookkeeper. The Center acts as the hub of the Central Florida LBGTQ community. They offer free aids and STD tests to anyone who walks in.

On the evening before the shooting, Terry watched a movie at home with his husband and they went to bed. Usually Terry turns the ring tone off on his phone as he charges it overnight, but for some reason on this night he forgot. Around 2:15am the phones started to ring. Bill, his husband was the first to get up. Terry's first thought was that somethings might be wrong with his 76 year old mother. Bill tossed his phone on the bed saying, "Something is up." Terry's phone had a text from someone inside the club. The Center Board President called to let him know that things looked bad. They got dressed and immediately drove down to Pulse. Just south of the Orlando Regional Hospital the street was completely blocked off, with police car and fire truck light flashing everywhere. His first thought was, "How is this just a shooting?"

He saw a police officer he knew and was instructed to drive down a side street and turn around to park in a small lot with some TV News Trucks. They got out and started walking fast towards the club. The same officer ran towards them shouting "Get back, there is going to be an explosion!" Terry pleaded for information, and the officer confided that there were 20 dead inside the club. Terry's legs gave out and Bill and the officer held him. They fell back to stay out of the way. Within an hour Patty Sheehan arrived. For five or ten minutes Terry lost it and he then realized that people would want information from people that they know. Things were unfolding as they stood there.

A mother ran towards Pulse yelling her son's name, trying to get past the police line. Press began to follow her with microphones and cameras.To shield her, Terry and a board member took her into an insurance agency building and locked the front doors to keep the media out. They held her on a brown couch in the lobby. So much happened that it was a blur. Some things were completely blocked, for instance Terry did an interview with "Good Morning America" didn't remember it until he saw the video a year later.

Even before the Center opened at about 5:15am there was a crowd outside. Flowers had been place at the front window and people stood vigil holding candles. The press was also there with cameras ready. Once open, close to 100 people pressed inside in the first hour. It took three hours before they realized the Center was not secure. There could be another fanatic or copycat shooter. Armed guards were called in. Counselors were needed and within hours 600 counselors were ready to respond. Information was sent out via social media. The Facebook page numbers swelled astronomically. Facebook asked if they should activate the "I am OK" message. This was the first time this was used in America. Everything happened organically.

The Center became a hub. People at home were glued to the TV hoping for news but they could also go to the Center to be around others. Donations of every kind began to pour in. They would be brought in the back door and then pick ups up front would deliver the goods where they needed to go. In the first three days there were 35,000 cases of water. The water was needed since it was June and insanely hot outside. People were lined up in the sun at blood drives.

Two full trucks pulled up at the Center full of office supplies. They didn't have any place to put it all. Luckily down the street Track Shack had a storage site and they let the Center use it. That site eventually became the distribution center. Over $80,000 worth of Gift Cards of every kind were dropped off as well. They were all logged in but the Center wasn't great about getting every donor's name.

That first week Terry probably got seven hours of sleep. He was Ex-Military, but nothing can prepare you for this kind of situation. Terry was on the news constantly. Bill began scheduling all the press calls and at one point he took Terry's phone because it never stopped ringing. It was amazing how far reaching the support was after the shooting. The Eiffel tower was lit up in rainbow colors, cities from around the world showed their support in similar ways with vigils. The Orlando Community came together and we all held on to that.

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