INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Orlando performer who survived the Pulse nightclub shooting is taking the stage for the very first time since the horrific shooting.
Michael Belvedere goes by the stage name of Axel Andrews. He flew from Orlando to Indianapolis to take part in a fundraiser here for the shooting victims.
The event was organized by the Indy Bag Ladies, a group advocating and raising money for the LGBT community.
A dozen performers took the stage at Gregs Indy on Thursday night as the crowd cheered them on.
“We want to celebrate life, you know, we don’t want anything gloomy we’re going to have fun tonight,” said Andrews. “We’re going to raise money. We’re just going to rise above all of this.”
Andrews was a special performer at Thursday’s show. He was invited to attend, helping to raise money and awareness for the victims.
Andrews said he will never forget the night he heard the gunshots and ran for cover.
“I started off bartending. I heard the shots and ran to the dressing room and that’s where I stayed for the reminder of the night,” he said.
“I didn’t think a hate crime or anything would ever happen there, so it was a lot of denial even when I was in the dressing room and I still heard the gun shots I was like, ‘This has got to be fireworks,’” he added.
Andrews said he survived by going into hiding.
“I pretty much just waited it out and I would hear things; I would hear gunshots; I would hear yelling; I would hear screams, but after a while it just fell silent,” he said.
The gunman shot and killed 49 people and injured 50 others.
“Right now everybody is afraid; they’re all afraid. I’m even afraid, but you can’t be right now, you have to go out,” he said.
Andrews is encouraging people to support gay bars in their neighborhood. Gregs was filled with joy and laughter Thursday night with many people celebrating and honoring the lives of the victims.
“I think that’s just that’s what I’m going to be doing everywhere I go is try to be strong for everybody,” he said.
Andrews is now going on a tour, visiting different cities to raise awareness and to support the victims. He admits he’s nervous, but knows he can’t live in fear.
“You never know what’s going to happen but you can’t really live in fear,” he said. “We all have to rise above that.”
The show raised around $12,000. Indy Pride said it will also match all donations up to $5,500 dollars for the victims.
Click here if you would like to donate.