On June 11, 2016, I was out celebrating the birthday of a co-worker and friend. We had plans to have dinner, see a movie and possibly hit a local hot spot to end the festivities. We had a friend with us who spent every Saturday night at Pulse and we were prepared for him to drag us older fellows out there.

The restaurant was crowded so the wait for the table was over an hour. This changed the course of the evening. We missed our movie and had to settle for a later, more obscure film called The Lobster. The birthday boy was ecstatic because we ended up seeing the movie he wanted to see anyway.

The movie let out around 11:00 p.m. and our young friend, the partier, started putting out feelers to see who would go to Pulse. This aging queen was ready for pajamas and a couch, so that’s what we did. We sat in my living room and turned on And the Band Played On. Not the most celebratory show you can watch on your birthday, but we thought it would be nice for our young friend to see it. He didn’t last the whole movie. About 1:30 a.m. he headed home. Except he didn’t. He decided to join his friends at his favorite club.

By the time he arrived, the streets were already shut down and he wasn’t able to get close. He texted us that shots were fired at Pulse and he was coming back to my house.

Here we are, almost a year and a half later, reliving that night as Las Vegas begins the long and seemingly unbearable road to recovery. Our hearts go out to Las Vegas, now burdened with the dubious honor of hosting the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Our hearts break for them. We know what they are going through and what is ahead of them. Our wounds reopen, some never healing in the first place.

What is to become of us? Let’s continue to show love, let’s continue to heal and let’s continue to fight. Make the debate happen. No person should be able to shoot hundreds of others. Keep talking, eventually someone will listen.

My original intention for this space was to shed some light on the changes happening here at Watermark. For a few months now, I have been asked about the direction of our staff. I’d like to answer that question, but before I do I’d like to let you know where we are now.

Watermark currently has a staff of 10, including our founder and guiding light. Tom Dyer is still a big part of my life as a mentor and a friend. The very talented Jake Stevens heads our art department. He oversees the overall look of all things Watermark and provides guidance to our creative assistant, Jason Donnelly. Jason helps create client advertisements and collateral materials. Danny Garcia heads our sales team made up of Sam Callahan, Dillan Ramirez and Debbie Reeves. Jeremy Williams is technically our entire editorial department at the moment. We use a number of very talented freelancers, but Jeremy is the only editorial staff member at this time. As owner and publisher, I fill in where needed. Kathleen Harper is our gal Friday. As office manager, she has her hands in everything and keeps this place running smoothly.

We truly are a family here. We celebrate each other’s victories and hold each other up in the hard times. We laugh at and with each other, and we argue. I love them all for who they are and for their commitment to Watermark and this community.

It’s time to redefine and expand this family. I will take on the role of managing editor. Jeremy will take charge of all Orlando coverage and newcomer Ryan Williams-Jent will head our Tampa Bay desk. Kathleen will be promoted to business manager. These changes will leave room for us to hire an online/social media staffer that will handle some of the administrative duties as well. Look for our ad in this issue if you’d like to apply.

We are introducing a new page in this issue to give you a more in-depth look at the people behind Watermark. We will begin with our youngest team member, Dillan Ramirez. Flip to the last page to see who we feature in each issue. Also in this issue we take a look at what’s LGBTQ in TV-land, celebrate five years of gay Busch Gardens, check in on Joshua Roth’s performance in Jeffrey, meet the new OPD LGBT liaison and note some changed to the SMART Ride.

We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.

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