During the early morning hours of June 12, a man armed with a semi-automatic rifle burst into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 club-goers and injuring 53 more. The tragedy was particularly hurtful for many, including Ates Isildak, because the shooting occurred inside what's considered a "safe space" for the LGBTQ community.
"It was a safe space for people who were already outsiders," Isildak says.
The mass shooting is considered the deadliest in U.S. history.
Here in West Palm Beach, Respectable Street Nightclub is hosting a fundraiser show for victims and their families on July 9. The event is being organized by Isildak to show support for the victims.
The show will include performances by local bands The State Of, Killmama, Chaucer, and a drag performance by Haus of Piss. There will also be face painting by Jordan Calloway of the Reckless Dames. In addition to the bands and the drag show, Isildak's talking to other vendors and artists who'll have their art up for sale at Respectable Street.
All donations and bar sales go to Equality Florida, the leading charity making sure money is getting to the victims of the Pulse massacre. The nonprofit is described as the largest civil rights organization dedicated to Florida's LGBTQ community.
The tragedy hit close to home for Isildak. While he didn't know any of the victims personally, the West Palm Beach native lived in Orlando from 2006 to 2007, attended the University of Central Florida, and spent many nights inside Pulse with friends while living there. He says it's "pretty freaky" to hear what happened in a place where he spent so much time.
Also, Isildak's family is Muslim, although he doesn't identify as such. The shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen who was killed in the subsequent shootout with police, was Muslim, too.
"It's hard," Isildak says. "It's a strange [place] for my mind to go. I feel like my mind is trying to blame someone. I just let my mind go to a higher power and pray for an afterlife."
As horrendous a tragedy as the Pulse shooting was, it's unthinkable for Isildak to know that it could happen anywhere else, including West Palm Beach.
"Even though it's not something that happens in our town, it could," he says.
A GoFundMe page was also set up for the Pulse victims. So far, more than $6,800,000 has been raised.
The Pulse fundraising event will take place from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday, July 9, at Respectable Street, 518 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach. Follow the Facebook event page for updates. Call 561-832-9999, or visit sub-culture.org/respectable-street.