‘We’ve lost our family’: LGBTQ community mourns after shooting at Club Q

Abigail Beckman/KRCC
Colorado Springs residents attended a vigil following a mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ club.
Club Q Shooting — Who we lost | Latest updates | Resources | The suspect

Editor's note: the number of people injured in the attack has been adjusted to 19, after the Colorado Springs Police Department reduced the number of people wounded.

Several hundred people gathered in downtown Colorado Springs Sunday morning to express hope, resilience and the importance of community after a gunman killed five and injured 19 more Saturday night at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub.

For more than two decades, Club Q has served as a safe gathering place for the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado Springs. Speaking during the vigil, co-owner Matthew Haynes said that he found himself there, as did many others, when there weren't other places to go.

"Back then, you could be kicked out of the military if you were gay. You weren't guaranteed to have your job, if you were gay. You were not guaranteed any rights," he said, referencing Colorado's failed Amendment 2. "Club Q was there [as] this safe haven."

Haynes said he made it to the club within 10 minutes of the shooting.

Haynes spoke of the many victories celebrated at Club Q, including the legalization of gay marriage, something he never expected in his lifetime. Today, though, is a loss Haynes said he never anticipated.

"Club Q doesn't have employees, Club Q doesn't have customers," Haynes said. "Club Q has family and community and…we've lost our family."

R.J. Lewis works next door to Club Q at a separate venue called Club Buddies. They were there when the shooting happened and were close friends with two of the people killed.

Abigail Beckman/KRCC
RJ Lewis works at a club next door to Club Q.

"I'm still wearing last night's clothes," Lewis said. "I have not gone to sleep. I've been an emotional wreck, especially finding out about the deaths."

Law enforcement had not yet released the names of the victims.

According to police, the shooter was subdued by at least two people. It's not clear if those individuals worked at the club. Law enforcement credited them with saving lives.

Lewis said until now, they had felt safe being themself in Colorado Springs, something they couldn't do anywhere else.

"When you have someone actively trying to harm you, that does make you want to go back in the closet, it makes you not want to be you," they said.

Lewis was just one of hundreds of people at the vigil held at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church. People crowded together in the packed pews, holding candles and comforting one another inside the church, while a large group waited outside, spilling into the street. Some wore rainbow masks and ribbons. Others had flags and homemade signs.

Jacob McConnell described Club Q as a "place where queer people congregate to just see reflections of ourselves."

He said he came to the vigil in recognition of those who died.

"I'm just here to say I'm sorry that we built a country that allows that place where you found safety, to be such a dangerous place."

Jenna Wright teaches at Colorado Springs High School. As an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, she said her mind is on her students during the weeklong Thanksgiving break ahead.

I'm thinking about the kids that woke up to this news and aren't out, or are living in a home [where] they're not supported,” she said.

Abigail Beckman/KRCC
"I chose to come here because if we hide, they win," said Phoebe Noel.

When school resumes, she plans to reach out to students and be as supportive "for them as possible." 

For Phoebe Noel, the fact that the shooting took place the night before the Trans Day of Remembrance makes the loss feel even greater. Noel is transfeminine.

"I chose to come here because if we hide, they win. That's essentially it. I'm dressed in very bright, big flag [and] yellow boots. I strive to be as visible as possible because I refuse to hide," she said.

And she's not alone.

During the vigil, longtime Colorado Springs activist Carolyn Cathey received a standing ovation.

"We shall not be moved," she said. "...we will heal and we will stand and we will face another day."