Remembering the Orlando 49: Frank Hernández Escalante

Remembering the Orlando 49: Frank Hernández Escalante

Every week between now and the one-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shootings, Orlando Weekly will profile a person killed on June 12, 2016. This week: Frank Hernández Escalante

Tattooed on his left bicep in black ink, Frank Hernández kept a saying close to his heart: "Love has no gender."

The 27-year-old who grew up in Weslaco, Texas, was proud of his identity, often posting pictures with rainbow colors or his "GAY O.K." shirt. Shortly after graduating from high school in 2006, Hernández started working at Calvin Klein, where he rose through the ranks to become manager. Two years ago, he left Texas for the chance to manage a store in Orlando. He was making a life in the City Beautiful with his longtime boyfriend, Brett Rigas, and their two dogs.

Months before they were about to celebrate their three-year anniversary, the couple went to the gay nightclub Pulse for a night of dancing and fun. When the shooting began, the two men lost each other in the dark. Rigas escaped the club with his life on June 12, but Hernández and 48 others did not.

"He's a little goofball," Rigas told the Advocate magazine after his boyfriend's death. "He was always making people laugh. Everybody loved him."

In his obituary, his family and friends described him as an easy laugh, someone who was the "life of the party." He loved Beyoncé, dancing, traveling to South Padre Island and Mexican food. He was close to his family, especially his grandparents who helped raise him.  

"They took my big brother away from me, they took him away from us," his sister Julissa Leal Escalante wrote on Facebook. "Frankie we love you, we will always love you and we will never forget you. You will always be in my heart."

The day after Hernández's death, his 15-year best friend Linda Garza posted that they were supposed to grow old together and yell at each other's kids when they got in trouble.

"I'm broken and torn and can't deal with the agony of not having you in my life but please just always remember that I will see you again," Garza writes. "You will now be my light that shines each morning and my stars that light up the night sky."


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