One year later, hundreds gathered to remember those killed and honor survivors in Club Q shooting

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Paolo Zialcita/CPR News
Workers with Club Q, survivors, and families of the victims raise the pride flag at the future site of a permanent memorial dedicated to the five lives lost.

Hundreds gathered at the entrance of Club Q Sunday to remember the five people who were killed and the dozens injured during a mass shooting at the LGBTQ club one year ago.

Two different events took place at Club Q on Sunday.

The first event was hosted by the club’s owners. Employees, families of victims and elected leaders, including Sen. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Springs mayor Yemi Mobolade, spoke about the club’s impact on the LGBTQ community, and ways they hope to move forward. 

“This building is a reminder of what once was, a place dedicated to equality and acceptance for all. It is a reminder of what happens when LGBTQ people decide to live openly and gather proudly. It's a reminder of how far we've come, but how far we still have to go,” said Michael Anderson, a bartender at Club Q.

Paolo Zialcita/CPR News
Michael Anderson, a bartender at Club Q, speaks in front of a crowd gathered on the one-year mark of the shooting.

Daniel Aston’s father, Jeff, read a poem that he wrote in remembrance of his son, who was one of the five people killed.

“You lit up the room with your smile and your wit. You and Club Q made a good fit,” he said. “But random bullets from an angry man took away all your dreams and plans. Now all that love must make a new start.”

The five people killed in the shooting were Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, and Derrick Rupp.

Paolo Zialcita/CPR News
Cynthia Deuhr went to high school in Colorado Springs, and remembered all-ages Club Q events as a safe space for queer youth.

Many frequent Club Q visitors came to pay respects to the longtime establishment and the larger LGBTQ community. Cynthia Duehr, who went to high school in Colorado Springs, remembered going to Club Q’s parking lot cookouts, which were all-ages events. 

“There'd be people who got it and then some elder queers to kind of show the way that it could be and show queer joy, which is not something you're used to, especially as a queer child in high school,” Duehr said. 

Paolo Zialcita/CPR News
Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper pauses in silence before he leaves flowers at a memorial dedicated to one of the five people killed during the 2022 Club Q shooting.

During the ceremony, Club Q co-owner Matthew Haynes announced the next stage of creating a permanent memorial. Haynes said the memorial would be five columns and 17 boulders surrounding a flagpole bearing the pride flag, in remembrance of the lives lost and those injured. 

The club has been closed since the shooting happened last year. While the owners eventually plan to reopen in a new location and under a new name, the timeline isn't yet clear. 

At the second event, legal center Bread and Roses hosted a memorial cleanup and beautification. 

The atmosphere at the cleanup was noticeably lighter than the prior remembrance. There were no formal speeches, but music from Britney Spears, Natasha Bedingfield and others played loudly and those in attendance were invited to lay flowers and light incense in front of the five memorials. 

Wyatt Kent, a drag performer and the former partner of Daniel Aston, wanted to use the time to celebrate the memories of those lost. They said the beautification comes after a long year of healing and moving forward as a community. 

“It’s been beautiful,” they said. “The way that the community has wrapped itself around me and other survivors as well as victims' families, and have allowed us to be open, vulnerable and allow ourselves to pour back into the community. So there's been a wonderful growth, wonderful light, wonderful love in the midst of this dark tragedy.”

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