Monday, February 17, 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 had been in the HIV diagnosis business for over 30 years. He was the director at The Center at the time of the Pulse shooting. The Center is the largest tester for HIV in Florida. They do 500 to 600 tests a month for HIV.  Orlando is fifth in the nation for the most newly diagnosed cases. Just before the shooting Terry had been offered a Director's position at AIDs Health Foundation (AHF) which is a Los Angeles based global nonprofit provider of HIV prevention services, testing, and healthcare for HIV patients. AHF currently claims to provide medical care and services to more than 1 million individuals in 43 countries worldwide. He was offered twice the salary that he was making at the Center. His start date was to be August 1, 2016 and July 16th was going to be his last day at the center. All the paperwork was done. He was packing up his office and then June 12 happened, the day of the Pulse massacre. AHF pushed off his start date to September but by mid August he realized in his heart would not let him leave Orlando.

There were between 300 and 600 people working in the tiny space inside the Center. It got hot in there in with the smoldering June heat. Someone donated several large mobile air conditioners to help. With the back doors always open taking in donations, the heat kept flowing in. On the third day after the shooting that took 49 lives, Terry decided he had to close the Center at 6pm. Had he kept the Center open 24 yours, the volunteers would have stayed for 24 hours. They had been working 12 to 14 your days for three days straight. They were ordered to go home and rest. Terry started turning off lights to shut the Center down.

At 5:45pm he got a call, letting him know that Florida Governor Rick Scott was planning to visit and wanted to enter by the back door so as not to draw attention. All the lights went back on. The governor banned all press and anyone in the Center would have to turn off their cell phones. Terry grew angry. His Orlando community had just been hurt, and this as their house. He called every news station and let them know that they had 5-10 minutes to get to the Center. The news trucks were all close by.

Three black SUVs pulled up behind the Center. The governor and his entourage entered via the back door and the press poured in the front door. The governor was shocked, but put on a plastic smile. Then Terry invited everyone in the Center to take out their cell phones of a photo op. This was supposed to be a private photo op for the governor since he had his personal photographer in tow. It was a chance for him to brag that he had been to the Center and the photo would imply that he cared. It was all self serving PR.

He never said the word LGBT. He never said "I'm sorry for what you are going through." He looked at Bill, Terry's husband, who had a tattoo and asked, "Did that hurt?" Bill responded, "Is that really all you have to say?" The governor shook Bills hand who wiped his hand off on his pants as the governor walked away. He seemed to have no idea what the Center was or why there were 600 people there. He asked nothing about all the donations or where they were going.

Down at Pulse, Marco Rubio showed up and started talking to the media about The danger of Islam, terrorists and hate. He was spewing false information. Terry shouted out that this wasn't about hate and division. All the cameras turned towards him. He always spoke from the heart. He tended to stand on the side lines while Patty Sheehan, Mayor Buddy Dyer and Police Chief Mina walked to and from the Command Center for updates. Then while they stood talking to media Chief Mina signaled to Terry that he should join them to help relay information to the world. This would become his role in the months and years to follow. One New York Times reporter had Terry's name on file with the initials GTG beside his name. That meant "go to gay." Terry would always offer honest opinions when asked.

The Angel Action Wings were created at the Shakespeare Theater with the help of Jim Helsinger. They were donated to the Center after Terry explained that they would be respected and used at proper events to honor the 49 lives lost. No one ever sees the angels getting ready. When they appear at Pulse, the fire station down the street lets them get set up in the parking lot behind the station. When they appear at Lake Eola, a condo association across the street allows them to get ready in the ballroom. Bill created an 8 foot high PVC pole that held several white flags. This helps in letting people know that the angels are coming and it helps part the crowd. The angels were originally intended to protect against hate and now they have become a signal of hope and of love. People just come up to the angels and hug them.

In time, Terry had to step down from being the director at the Center, taking a communications director position instead. In the months after Pulse he was pulled in so many directions, that something had to give. He has talked to survivors who are going through a lot. For the first year, survivors were being flown around the world to Pride events and fundraisers. After one year that attention disappeared. They felt lost. One survivor, a nurse said she can not get a job. At interviews she holds back not wanting anyone to know she was at Pulse that night. She suspects she might be sabotaging herself.

The current administration is promoting hate and division and that trickles down. The love and unity we experienced is being torn apart. People seem unable to see through the smoke screen. We can not let people forget. Orlando stood as one, united in not letting hate win. Orlando reacted with love and the world saw that and stood beside us. For a few days, hate stood still.

On January 27, 2020, Terry DiCarlo died of Cancer at the age of 57.

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