Excerpted from The Advocate, June 28, 2016:
Answai Bennett (his friends call him Swizzy) ducked into a nearby bathroom. He crowded into a single stall with 15 others. The people argued frantically. They called and texted friends, loved ones. The noise attracted the gunman, who flung open the bathroom door and sprayed the stall with bullets.
[Swizzy] was with one of his closest friends, Paul Henry. He watched him get shot, his body falling headfirst into the toilet.
Mateen shouted, “If you guys come to the door, I’m going to kill you!” In the stall,[Swizzy] tried to calm the crowd, telling everyone to be quiet… The gunman would return to the bathroom a second time to fire more rounds.
Six of those huddled in the stall with [Swizzy] died.
[Swizzy] was shot three times in the hip and leg, a bullet tearing through his femur. At the hospital, he received 60 staples and a metal rod in his leg. He is learning how to walk again.
On Swizzy’s GoFundMe site, which he set up himself to reduce the burden on his family, he mentions how he has been fighting through all of his recovery without any insurance. He was discharged swiftly from the hospital not to skilled rehab facility but straight home, the burden of primary care-taking placed on his family… yet his attitude and theirs has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive of one another. His first GoFundMe update, in fact, was “Finally out the hospital home with my parents who are amazing nurses, I still haven’t been able to walk but hopefully soon.” This young man survived the unimaginable. One look at his GoFundMe site and updates and you’ll see his spirit is indomitable.
Brian’s beautiful portrait demonstrates the power of an artist; though the picture it was based off of was taken prior to the tragedy, it imagines Swizzy’s eyes now perfectly. Eyes that took in the scene described to the reporter above, but which still store enough faith and sass to crack jokes about his recovery process and declare “Finally up and about on my own. With a walker still but I got this.” (GFM update #7)
Please consider the enormous financial burden that Swizzy and his family have bourn in the face of his significant injuries, time off work not only for him, but the stresses of family-provided home care during his recovery as well. Yes, he will receive some support from the Equality Florida Fund eventually, however payouts will not begin until October. He and his family need your support now.
Every little bit helps, don’t be put off by thinking your donation is too small to make a difference! The beauty of crowdfunding is that your small donation, coupled with sharing the fact that you made a donation (to encourage others to do the same), snowballs into large amounts very quickly! Even just $5 and a single post to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (or all three, if you’re feeling saucy) will make you a hero for Swizzy!
Please donate, share Brian’s beautiful portrait, and tell a little of Swizzy’s story today!
Shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/p7GR5W-6W
About the Artist
From the artist, Brian Philips: In the wake of the Pulse tragedy #AdoptOrlando is doing some great things to connect people directly to members of our wounded community in need. Since I don’t have much money to donate, I wanted to take up #AdoptOrlando’s suggestion of creating a portrait of someone affected to help boost awareness of their direct GoFundMe campaign. This is “Swizzy” Bennett. He’s 25 years old and is one of the survivors of the violence that occurred at Pulse. Like many others his injuries have left him with incredible medical bills. Please follow the link in the image if you’d like to help him. Thanks!
Brian Philips is a versatile Orlando-based artist. He experiments with recontextualizing objects and images, working to separate form from meaning and questioning if such a thing is even possible. See his work (which spans sound and video, sculpture, collage paint, as well as jewelry and illustration) at supercontinent-bp.com.