ORLANDO, Fla. — Parliament House Entertainment Manager Tim Evanicki was at a local supermarket on Sunday shortly after news of the Pulse Nightclub massacre broke.
Evanicki and another employee of Parliament House — a gay hotel and entertainment complex that is located near downtown Orlando — were at the supermarket to purchase water for community organizations and other groups that were beginning to respond to the shooting.
“We went into the aisle for the drinks and there were several people all there doing the same thing we were doing: Strangers, straight couples, families all doing whatever they could do to help,” Evanicki told the Washington Blade on Tuesday during an interview at Parliament House’s restaurant.
Parliament House, which opened more than four decades ago, is roughly three miles away from the Pulse Nightclub in which 49 people lost their lives on Sunday.
Evanicki told the Blade that some of those who performed at both Parliament House and the Pulse Nightclub are “unfortunately no longer with us.”
“With the number of people on the list who are deceased or injured, we all know more than one,” he said.
More than 1,000 people attended a vigil that took place at Parliament House on Sunday night.
“It sort of just brought the community back together and gave them a place to be,” Evanicki told the Blade. “I don’t think any of them, any of us, knew at the time how to react.”
Parliament House is waiving entrance fees this week and accepting donations to help raise money for employees of the Pulse Nightclub and their families.
A benefit that Evanicki said will “raise as much money as we can” is scheduled to take place on Thursday, which is the complex’s weekly Latino night. A concert with “some very big names” is slated for June 25.
Parliament House has also begun to offer counseling services.
“With so many LGBT organizations in Orlando, we’ve all sort of found our niches to what groups within the community we’re helping,” Evanicki told the Blade.
‘It could have been any of us’
Media reports indicate that the gunman, Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Fla., had previously visited the Pulse Nightclub. They also note that he used Grindr and other gay hookup apps.
Evanicki told the Blade that he has “no idea at all” if the gunman ever visited Parliament House.
Thousands of people attended outdoor concerts at the complex earlier this month that coincided with Gay Days 2016. The Pulse Nightclub massacre occurred a week after the annual event that takes place at Walt Disney World and other locations throughout Central Florida.
“We all thought, ‘Parliament House is much bigger than Pulse,’” Evanicki told the Blade, noting the reports that the gunman previously visited the Pulse Nightclub are particularly disturbing to him. “Why wasn’t it here? Thankfully it wasn’t, but it could have been here.”
“We’ve all said it, ‘It could have been any of us,’” he added.
Scott, Bondi response to massacre ‘incredibly offensive’
Evanicki was quick to praise Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, lesbian City Commissioner Patty Sheehan and other local officials for their response to the massacre.
“Locally we have an incredible government that is very supportive,” Evanicki told the Blade. “Buddy Dyer is incredibly supportive.”
Evanicki described the fact that Florida Gov. Rick Scott had not specifically mentioned the LGBT community in his public comments about the massacre as “incredibly” offensive. Evanicki also applauded CNN’s Anderson Cooper for challenging state Attorney General Pam Bondi over her opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples and other LGBT-specific issues during his interview with her on Tuesday.
“It was incredible,” Evanicki told the Blade. “They (Bondi and Scott) have not been very supportive of the community now and the fact that they can’t even say…LGBT is incredibly offensive.”
Scott described the Pulse Nightclub massacre as “an attack against the gays, an attack against Hispanics, an attack against our country, our nation” during an exclusive interview with the Blade on Tuesday afternoon that took place after he placed flowers at a makeshift memorial in downtown Orlando.
Evanicki told the Blade during the Parliament House interview that took place at the same time Scott was visiting the memorial that he is “not paying attention” to how the massacre is factoring into national politics.
“That really has no place right now,” said Evanicki. “It’s too soon. We should be mourning and not politicizing.”