TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Gay Pride celebration for the city of Tampa today kicked off with a touching tribute to the victims and survivors of the Pulse attack.
It was the first Pride in Tampa since the shooting at the Orlando LGBT nightclub.
The executive director of the Orlando LGBT Center, Terry DeCarlo helped lead the response to the tragedy and remembers the harrowing moments after the Pulse attack in vivid detail. He helped pay tribute to the survivors Saturday at Tampa’s Pride celebration.
“My husband and I were sleeping and our phones were buzzing, going off,” DeCarlo recalled.
He jolted awake to news of a shooting at Pulse nightclub.
DeCarlo and his husband got there while hostages were still being held, terrified, inside. They would lose three friends.
Nearly a year later, DeCarlo dressed as an angel to honor the victims.
“Our survivors were here, our first responders were here. They were just in tears throughout the day with, just again, the outpouring of love and support,” DeCarlo said.
Pride started with a tandem march of the Pulse angels and people carrying a portion of the historic Key West rainbow flag.
“I still have survivors that have bullets in their bodies. I just had a survivor go through another surgery. This is his eighth surgery. He just went through it two weeks ago. They're living with this every day, so to see the love and support from other cities and people - when you're walking down the street and people start clapping and cheering - it just fills their heart and mine too,” DeCarlo said.
He also says it's important to remember the message behind Pride festivals like Tampa’s - to be visible and show support for friends and neighbors.
“You can't let hate scare you that much, that it's going to define you and hide you away. Come out like today, the amazing amount of people came here to show their love to the Pulse survivors and first responders,” he explained.
DeCarlo says the city and the Orlando LGBT community are planning a large anniversary event for June, to mark one year since the nightclub shooting.