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Club Q tragedy shocks nation

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Photo by Isaiah Downing / Reuters
Photo by Isaiah Downing / Reuters

Last Saturday, just before midnight, a shooter entered the LGBTQ+ nightclub Club Q and immediately opened fire on its patrons and staff. Five persons were killed and 18 were injured in the horrific event. Two heroic patrons rushed the gunman as bullets and broken glass rained down on those trying to hide or flee. They managed to take a pistol from the attacker and hit him with it. This allowed them to pin him to the ground and subdue him. Their bravery halted the attack and saved multiple lives.

Photo by Isaiah Downing / Reuters  

This terrible event has cut the LGBTQ+ community deeply; one survivor, in an interview with Colorado 9News stated, "Our safe space is no longer our safe space. And, we are a broken community."

That the tragedy occurred during Transgender Awareness Week added salt to the wounds. Last Sunday was Transgender Remembrance Day, a time to honor Transgender and gender-nonconforming people who lost their lives to anti-Trans violence. Two of the five victims of the shooting were Trans.

Daniel Davis Ashton
One was Daniel Davis Ashton, a 28-year-old Transgender man and bartender at Club Q. Two years ago, he moved to Colorado Springs to be closer to his family. His mother told the Associated Press, "It's just a nightmare that you can't wake up from. I keep thinking that they've made a mistake and that he's really alive."

She remarked on how the tragedy happened during Transgender Remembrance Day. "They were doing a celebration of life for those people that had died. And instead, they lost their lives."

Ashton was a bartender and participated in the venue's performances. He had proclaimed himself "the Master of Silly Business" and was said to be a light in the lives of those close to him.

Kelly Loving
We also mourn the passing of Kelly Loving, a 40-year-old Transgender woman who was visiting during a weekend trip from Denver. She was described by close friend Natalee Bingham to the New York Times as "like a Trans mother to me... It's like I lost my real mother, almost."

Bingham had been on a FaceTime call with Loving before the shooting and recalled her last words to her mother figure: "Be safe. I love you."

Derrick Rump
Bartender and co-owner of Club Q Derrick Rump was 38 years old at the time of his passing. He was said to have provided a valuable service by being a good listener and friend to patrons. A friend of Rump, Anthony Jaramillo, told CBS News that Rump was "loving, supportive, with a heavy hand in his drink pouring, and just a really good listener [who was not] afraid to tell you when you were wrong instead of telling you what you wanted to hear, and that was really valuable."

Another close friend, Rueben Warren, posted on Facebook: "Words can't even begin to form on the hurt, pain, and anger I have inside — Truly a blessing to me, and I'm going to miss seeing that bright smile, and charming personality."

Ashley Paugh
Ashley Paugh was a 35-year-old wife and mother to an 11-year-old daughter. Her sister-in-law Stephanie Clark told NBC News that Paugh was not a member of the LGBTQ+ community but was at Club Q to enjoy some stand-up comedy with a friend.

Her nephew, Jaden Harris, wrote on Facebook, "He took away the most beautiful soul away from our family and many others over this ignorant, hateful, despicable act."

Raymond Green Vance
Raymond Green Vance was celebrating a birthday with friends, family, and his girlfriend. He was 22 years old and had just gotten a job at a FedEx distribution center; he was excited to save up money to afford an apartment. His family said in a statement to Colorado 9News that he was "a kind, selfless young adult with his entire life ahead of him."

"Though he is supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, he himself is not a member of it," his family said.

Richard Fierro outside his Colorado Springs home on Nov. 21. The retired Army major was one of the men who tackled the gunman inside Club Q. His daughter's boyfriend, Raymond Vance, was killed in the shooting. — Photo by Jack Dempsey / AP  

According to the statement, "His closest friends describe him as gifted, one-of-a-kind, and willing to go out of his way to help anyone. His absence will leave irreparable heartbreak in countless lives."

How does this keep happening?
For survivors and loved ones of the 2016 Pulse shooting, this horrific attack has dredged up their trauma and grief. Christine Leinonen, who lost her son in the Pulse shooting, told USA Today after learning about the Colorado Springs attack, "Everything comes flooding back."

In a statement to USA Today, the Human Rights Campaign's incoming president, Kelly Robinson, said, "From Pulse to Colorado Springs to so many other lives stolen from us — this has occurred for far too long."

Photo by Jack Dempsey / AP  

Anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and hate crimes have been rising, especially against the Trans community, along with accusations of child grooming. In May, President Biden warned, "Since that time, there has been much progress. But we continue to witness disturbing setbacks and rising hate and violence targeting LGBTQI+ people in the United States and around the world. This is wrong."

From LGBTQ+ clubs to Pride events like the one in Idaho this last June, when a U-Haul full of white nationalists who intended to riot was stopped, no space feels truly safe. Living out and proud is a courageous act, especially considering that some wish to dim our light.

Pulse shooting survivor Chris Hansen told USA Today what he wanted to tell the survivors of the Club Q shooting: "Don't give up and don't stay in the dark. They have to remember that as long as they're alive, there is still hope. And as long as you're still living, there is love, and love wins and you can't allow this 22-year-old take away your happiness, your brightness, your love, your community, your strength."