On June 12, 2016, we woke up to news of tragedy in Orlando. Our LGBT sorority and fraternity had been attacked by a gunman at Pulse nightclub. As we gathered for the annual Pride parade in Los Angeles that morning, fear was everywhere. We did not know how many had been killed. We did not know how many had been injured. We did not know the motivation for the attack. We did not know if this was an isolated incident.
As the morning unfolded, we heard news of a gunman headed to the L.A. Pride Parade with intent to harm more members of our community. Thanks to the work of law enforcement, he was stopped before he ever got near his destination, but our fear continued to grow. However, in the face of terror and the dread of additional horrors, our community came together to say, "We will not be intimidated and we will not be afraid." The community came out in larger numbers than I can remember at any recent Pride parade to stand with our brothers and sisters in Orlando.
It is nearly a year later and we know more about what happened. Forty-nine people died and 68 people were injured because of the actions of a lone gunman. The gunman was an unstable young man struggling with his own identity, sexuality, religion, and politics. He committed the deadliest terrorist attack ever perpetrated on U.S. soil by a single gunman. This was the worst LGBT massacre in American history and it took place in a nightclub, a safe space for our community, and a space that is very personal to me.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to meet Barbara Poma, the owner of Pulse, and several of the survivors from that deadly shooting. As the owner of a nightclub myself, I have hosted many guests over 26 years, from movie stars to presidents. The night I spent with Barbara and survivors of Pulse is the most memorable night I have ever spent at the Abbey. I listened to their stories of survival and the horrors they endured. I listened to stories about people who did not survive and those whose recoveries still left them in hospitals months after the incident. Listening to their stories changed me forever.
As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Pulse massacre, not a single gun law has changed, and LGBT protections are being rolled back by the current administration. Our community is still under attack. We can protect ourselves if we work together.
I would like to invite everyone to join me at the Abbey on Monday, June 5, to meet survivors from Pulse and hear their stories and hardships. I hope you will be as inspired as I have been to help promote change, to help our brothers and sisters, and to come together in the face of fear.
We will not forget the 49 people who died and 68 people who were injured in the attack. Our future depends on it.
DAVID COOLEY is the owner and CEO of the Abbey Food and Bar and the Chapel in West Hollywood. He will host a fundraiser June 5 alongside Pulse owner Barbara Poma. One hundred percent of ticket sales will benefit the for the OnePulse Foundation. Learn more at TheAbbeyWeHo.com/onepulse and make additional donations at OnePulseFoundation.org.