(COLORADO SPRINGS) — In a poignant gathering marking exactly one year since the Club Q shooting on Nov. 19, 2022, hundreds of community members, flanked by local and state leaders, congregated outside the nightclub for a somber yet resilient remembrance ceremony of the shooting.

The atmosphere was heavy with shared grief and poignant memories as survivors, those present that fateful night, and families and friends of the five individuals who lost their lives came together. Many expressed disbelief that a year had passed since the tragic incident.

“It is the week of Thanksgiving, and it’s not lost on me that there will be five empty seats at dinner tables. The heartbreaking reality of these tragic events here at Club Q, and frankly, of gun violence in America, and across our world today is truly heartbreaking. We must do better,” said Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade.

The names—Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, Derrick Rump, and Raymond Green Vance—echoed through the air as people paid tribute to those who were taken too soon.

Matthew Haynes, the club’s owner, spoke to the crowd, sharing sentiments that resonated with the collective sorrow. “I have no words for the senseless loss of life, for the shock, the pain, the pure hate, and pure evil… and here we are, one year later, and there are still no words.”

Michael Anderson, who was bartending on that fateful night, reflected on the dichotomy of the space, once a haven for joyous celebrations now juxtaposed with the haunting memories of tragedy.

Along with Mayor Mobolade, other local and state leaders also gave speeches, including former Mayor John Suthers, 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen, Senator John Hickenlooper, and Governor Jared Polis, who gathered to honor the victims. Even Vice President Kamala Harris sent a heartfelt note read aloud during the ceremony.

Local law enforcement, who played an instrumental role in saving countless lives that night, showed up in numbers and stood respectfully at the rear of the crowd.

The heart-wrenching sentiments of loss were palpable as families grappled with the enduring absence of their children.

Jeff Aston read a poem dedicated to his son Daniel, encapsulating the profound grief and longing felt by those left behind, “What can I do now that you’re gone? Now that you’ve moved to that great beyond. My bicycle wheel has lost its spokes. No one’s around to laugh at my dad jokes.”

In the crowd were also friends who had spent the last year yearning to share milestones and moments of self-discovery with the people who had been there for every step of their journey. Zeth Gross started going to Club Q at the age of 18 and just started hormone therapy last October.

“When I got my first appointment scheduled, the first thing I did was come here [Club Q] to tell Daniel [Aston] because I know Daniel was so proud… I hope he’s proud of me. I know he is,” Gross said through tears.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community say the sense of safety that was lost one year ago, persists to this day.

“We do yoga together with a group of queer folks, and someone walked by in the parking lot as we were leaving and I still felt kind of that nervousness of, you know, could there be another kind of attack? Could there be something else happening? And so that is still clear and present in our minds even a year later,” Phoebe Rudolph, a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Amidst the sorrow, it has also been a year of unwavering support for one another, a response louder and more enduring than the tragic event itself, as articulated by DA Allen, “When evil strikes, it takes all of us to stand against it. It takes all of us to stand up for what is right… Let us all be the light that drives out the darkness and the love that drives out the hatred. Together.”

“I hope that on this anniversary we see it instead as an opportunity to double down on hope and love. I think that that is really the best way to honor Raymond Kelly, Daniel, Derrick, and Ashley and keep their memories with us,” said Governor Polis.

The commemoration culminated in a solemn moment of silence, followed by a tribute—victims’ families and survivors encircling a raised Progress Pride flag. After the speeches concluded attendees paid their respects at individual memorials, lighting candles and leaving flowers, and other sentimental items.

According to Haynes, the temporary tribute outside Club Q is slated to transform into a permanent tribute garden—a memorial comprising a flagpole surrounded by five columns, 17 boulders, and benches for reflection. He announced that the city planning department approved the new plan on Friday, Nov. 17, allowing construction of this tribute to begin.

The remembrance ceremony not only served as a reflection, but as a steadfast pledge from community members—to honor the past by forging a more inclusive, understanding, and compassionate future.

“That’s what I’m doing with this grief. I’m funneling it into creating an equitable life and a safe space for everyone,” said Phoebe Rudolph.