ALAMOSA — An easel holding a poster board with the photos of five people sat in the corner of the mall court of Adams State University’s student union at noon on Thursday. Five young, hopeful, energetic faces were forever captured in a single moment. At the foot of the easel, five candles had been lit, surrounded by tealights and arrangements of flowers.
Seated in a semi-circle just a few feet away, professors, students, staff and other members and supporters of the LBGTQ community gathered for a vigil in memoriam on the five people murdered in the Club Q mass shooting Nov. 19 in Colorado Springs. Each held a tea light. Some were seated, others stood in clusters of twos and threes, a few with their arms slung over other's shoulders in a sign of support and solidarity.
Charlie Olson, president of ASU’s Queer Pride Club, addressed the crowd.
“This wasn’t just an attack on five people in Colorado Springs,” they said. “It was an attack on all of us. I’m from Colorado Springs and I love Club Q. I will always love Club Q. And the best thing we can do is persevere.”
Their comments were followed by a moment of silence for each of the victims who were killed: Derrick Rump, Kelly Loving, Raymond Green Vance, Ashley Paugh (an ASU grad) and Daniel Davis Aston.
Several of those in attendance also chose to stand up and speak.
People spoke of loneliness. Some said it had been a rough ride where at every turn they’re reminded that (members of the LGBTQ community) are not viewed as part of this world.
Others spoke about comfort. They said they were comforted by seeing the support their community is receiving in troubled times.
Vince Alcon, a resident director, also expressed his thoughts.
“We’re gathered together because of a tragedy,” Alcon said. “But the one thing we all have in common together is love. Can you say, love?”
His question was met with people saying, “Love.”
“Can you say love?” he asked again, with more intensity. The crowd matched his intensity. “Love!” they yelled back in unison.
Heidi Schneider, associate professor of sociology at ASU, inclusive excellence liaison to the council and director of the board of equity, organized the vigil. She addressed the crowd, prior to the memorial being moved outside to the ASU “Attack Rock.”
“Spaces like Club Q were created to be safe spaces,” Schneider said. “Inside spaces. Spaces where people felt safe to be who they are. But we’ve been attacked. And so we need to get out. We need to go outside. We need to be seen and heard. We need to do things like vote. And we need to make sure Adams State is a safe place. Adams State must be a place where everyone feels they are safe.”
Behind her, the multi-colored Post-it notes attached to the message board where people posted their thoughts, echoed her words: “Love Wins,” “You are Loved,” and “We Rise.”
“The Club Q shooting had a direct impact on our community with one of the victims being alumni,” Schneider said. “We have a large queer community at ASU - students, employees and staff. And being in a small rural community, there’s not much opportunity to feel that sense of belonging and acceptance. That’s what is needed. The community always operates better when everyone feels they belong. “
‘Safety’ was a word mentioned often by Schneider and others. But safety, she said, goes far beyond the physical safety that was violated in the worst possible way at Club Q.
“Safety is having a fundamental sense of well-being,” she said. “Emotionally, socially, personally and, yes, physically. Safety acknowledges the wholeness of a human being.”
And safety, in and of itself, is not the final goal.
“We’re working to move beyond tolerance and acceptance to the celebration of others and a genuine feeling of welcoming,” she said.