No one can understand the horror of the Pulse Night Club attack better than members of the gay community. And on the one year anniversary of the massacre that left 49 people dead, one of Maine’s most popular voices shared his personal thoughts about the anniversary and a weekend march he flew down to DC to take part in.
Disc jockey Blake Hayes of radio station Coast 93-1 makes up half of the popular Blake and Eva show. He has been openly gay from day one. In fact, he says he’s confident that’s one of the biggest reasons he was hired for the job.
And on June 12, 2016, he had a better understanding than many on the air that morning the gravity of the attack. “It’s hard to understand the Pulse nightclub shooting as a gay person unless you are a gay person because nightclubs are like the safe zone.”
Hayes remembers immediately thinking about his friends, and doing all that he could to try to reach them. “Of course the first thing you do is go on Facebook see if they were marked as safe or text and say ‘hey Chad,’ my friend who is on the radio there ‘Chad are you ok?’"
Shocked, like many members of his community, Hayes turned to the airwaves to help listeners process what had happened, vowing, with the backing of his bosses at the Portland Radio Group, to take a more prominent leadership role in the gay community.
“Coast 93.1, It’s Blake and yes, Pride week Portland, showing your pride all around town, we’ll be out at the festival and the parade on Saturday.”
And in his South Portland studio, as he gears up for the big weekend event, a rainbow flag, vintage Cher album and smiling photos of him with listeners decorate the shelves and walls. On his head, a baseball cap with a rainbow colored hand giving the peace sign, a memento he picked up over the weekend in our Nation’s Capital.
Hayes and his partner marched in what was dubbed the “Unapologetically Proud” parade in Washington, DC, kicking off Gay Pride week. They joined an estimated 200,000 others remembering the Pulse attack victims and calling on our nation’s leaders to keep gay rights intact. Hayes describes the scene.
“There was definitely a somber remembrance of Orlando and there were a lot of people with signs like ‘remember pulse’ and ‘we are one’ and stuff like that. But I think the march was not so much spawned by a reflective memory but a sort of defensive anger. Like, hey, why are you coming for us now?”
In fact, Hayes says it is his biggest fear that any advances the gay community has made over the past eight years might somehow be lost if he and others don’t speak up.
“I just can’t imagine. I mean, we fought so hard to have the right to marry. We have fought hard to be recognized as equals in America.”
And looking back on the Orlando massacre, he confronts another fear: those who hate members of the gay community.
“Yes it was terrorism and yes it was murder and awful but it was an attack on our safe space which is why so many people, so many gay people were affected by that in a sort of unexpected way.”
Hayes says he’s grateful for the role he played that June 12th morning and feels he was a sort of conduit to the community during a very sensitive time.
“Trying to reach out and talk, not just about the loss but what the attack on a nightclub that’s like our safe space, what that meant to the community and how people were feeling.”
Hayes pauses, considering the connection he made with his listeners.
“It’s weird it’s like in moments like that , we don’t have psychology degrees you know but we kind of become like therapists cause we can connect people.”
Blake Hayes can be heard each morning on the Blake and Eva show on Coast 93.1FM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org