It has been a little over a month since my hometown community was faced with the country’s worst mass shooting, words I would never attribute to the city in the shadow of the Mouse. Below is the story of a dear friend of mine who pushed himself to exhaustion to be there for the Orlando community.
While the world came together to mourn the tragedy of the Pulse nightclub shooting, Orlando resident, J.D. Casto opened his heart and home to anyone who needed a safe space. Originally from Ohio, J.D. attended Rollins College and since graduation has been building his career as a photographer, videographer, and community organizer. Having chosen Orlando as his home, the events of June 12 hit particularly close to home.
Even though he did not lose any close friends that night, the attack was personal. Pulse to J.D. is “a safe place to have fun and not be judged” and was a welcoming place for all kinds of people. In fact, his first time to the nightclub was with a group of straight male friends later in his college years.
The last time he went to Pulse, he was invited by his straight guy friends to go out on a Tuesday. With excellent drink deals, the guys just wanted to enjoy a chill environment. J.D. remembers that the crowd was truly representative of the diverse community in Orlando.
As the dust settles and life slowly returns to normal, J.D. was quick to point out that while we may focus on the gun control debate now, there is a larger issue at play. “We need to reform our education system. Without that, our communities will continue to only see differences and continue to be divided.”