DENVER — Long before a shooter walked through its doors one week ago and opened fire, Club Q on Colorado Springs’ busy North Academy Boulevard held a special place in the heart of the city’s LGBTQ community.
The club now sits at the center of a national conversation surrounding hate-motivated crimes, fueled by anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from politicians and public figures — and the community is grappling with the violence aimed at some of its most vulnerable citizens.
Colorado’s latest mass shooting, which unfolded over the course of a few minutes late on Nov. 19, took the lives of five people — Daniel Davis Aston, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, Derrick Rump and Raymond Green Vance — left 18 injured and countless others scarred.
People up and down the Front Range recall Club Q before last weekend’s bloodshed. They remember it as a sanctuary within a city that can often castigate those who dare to be different.
They tell stories of their first visit to the club, how the people inside lifted them up and helped them find themselves. They think back to the moment when they first waded into a new community, one that accepted them unconditionally with bright colors and costumes, cocktails and music to which you couldn’t help but dance.
Club Q meant something different to everybody who set foot inside, but the underlying thread connecting those different stories is a sense of belonging.
These are a few of those stories:
'Some of the best moments of my entire life'
She remembers donning a red dress with tights underneath because it was cold that night. She remembers her high-heeled furry boots and Derrick Rump behind the bar.
Ashlynn Mcatee, 25, remembers her first night at Club Q well, the welcoming and accepting atmosphere for a young woman first understanding and exploring her gender identity. That was the first time she had worn a dress, the first time she ventured into a public place as the person she is now.