An RIT alumnus and board member of Come Out With Pride Orlando said the worst mass shooting in American history will make the gay community stronger.
"Not a single day goes by when there isn't an act of homophobia somewhere in the world," said Jeff Prystajko '02, '04 (information technology, MBA), who is director of marketing and communications for the organization. "We aren't going to stop fighting until that stops."
Prystajko said he learned Sunday morning about the shooting rampage, which left 49 dead and 53 wounded at a popular gay nightclub 2 miles from his home. Friends from across the country began calling and texting to see if he and his husband, David Wyzynski, were OK.
Since then, the former editor-in-chief of Reporter Magazine has been providing as much support as he can, keeping tabs on social media and doing interviews with international media organizations-all while trying to process what happened and start grieving.
He attended a vigil Monday night in downtown Orlando where thousands gathered to pay respects to the victims. A bell was rung 49 times for each life lost. "That's when for most people it hit," he said.
After graduating from RIT, Prystajko moved to Cleveland where he volunteered for the 2014 Gay Games doing graphic design and website work. His day job was doing web design for the amusement park industry.
He and Wyznyski set out for warmer weather in Orlando last July and even before the move Prystajko looked for ways he could continue supporting the LGBT community. Come Out With Pride Orlando needed graphic design help so he volunteered. He was asked to join the board in January.
Come Out With Pride Orlando is an all-volunteer organization that formed in 2005 to encourage fellowship and oppose prejudice. The organization hosts one of the largest pride festivals in Florida in October and works to fight against unjust laws affecting the LGBT community.
Prystajko, who works as a senior user interface designer for Accesso, said he is thankful for the support Orlando continues to receive and the support he personally has received from friends across the country. Today begins a long process of healing.
"All the world has helped the community here realize we aren't alone," he said. "We are going to come through this. We are going to get better."