COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — Adriana Vance is worried people will forget about the five victims killed at Club Q on November 19, 2022. Her son, Raymond, lost his life that night.
"We just can't forget them," Vance said.
That's why Vance and the families of the other victims continue to tell their stories. They want to honor their lives and share memories of their loved ones, especially the happy ones.
Vance says Raymond loved to dance.
"He was funny," Vance said. "He was a dancer. He used to keep me up on all the latest moves."
His grandmother, Esthela Bell, would join right in.
"He danced with me in Cancun," she said. "We went to Cancun and we were dancing."
Vance loved his family, his dog 'Draco', his girlfriend, and God.
"Raymond got saved," said Vance. "He finally accepted my request to go to church. After nagging and nagging him to come with me to just check it out. Finally that night, he said, 'Yeah, I'll go' because my friend bribed him with getting tacos after church to eat. So that night he got saved."
A few weeks later he was killed.
"I was afraid to take my younger son with me to church because I thought, 'If he gets saved, maybe (God) might take him, too'," said Vance. "So I stopped going. But then I started having talks with my husband and he was just telling me that despite what happened, you still have to keep the faith and you just have to continue to go because that's what's going to help you get through this."
Vance saw her son just before he headed out that night with his girlfriend, Kassy Fierro, and her family. She says their last conversation was a happy one.
"He came in my room after he got dressed because he had just got an outfit and some new cologne and he had his hair done," Vance said. "He came in the room and he said, 'How do I look?' and I said, 'You look good.' I said, 'You smell even better.'"
Cell phone video captures Vance and the Fierros having fun together right before Vance is killed. His mom texted him one more time.
"It was getting ready to be midnight, so I was trying to find out what he was going to do, if he was coming home, or what his plans were," said Vance. "He was going to stay at Kassy's house and said that he would be home in the morning to get his dog and to get ready to go to work. So I just told him, 'Okay, I love you' and he said, 'I love you, too.'"
Seven minutes later he was gone. The man they called the "Gentle Giant" was taken from them in an instant forever.
"Club Q to him was his home," said Julia Kissling.
Kissling says her brother and best friend, Derrick Rump, loved his family of friends at Club Q. As a long-time bartender at Club Q, she says Rump often became a support system for his customers and co-workers.
"Praying for people was one of his things to do, especially when people were down or out, he would love to go to their house and bless their house and say prayers," said Kissling. "He loved it. He found so much joy in that."
Kissling says Rump made roots in Colorado and loved exploring the mountains.
"A year before this happened my mom finally got on a plane for the very first time in her life (to visit Rump)," Kissling said. "She was so terrified to go, and he was so happy that she did it. He was so excited to just take her on a tour of Colorado. They shared so many beautiful moments together. It was it was extremely beautiful."
Treasured memories their family holds on to in their pain of losing Rump.
"I would never have thought in a million years that this would be us and that it would have been my brother," Kissling said.
Jeff and Sabrina Aston's son, Daniel, was the first person in the club killed. It was the second time their family had been impacted by a deadly shooting. In 2013, their grandson was in Arapahoe High School in Centennial when a killer came in shooting, too. Thankfully he survived.
"The guy came in and shot the girl and luckily everybody else managed to get out except my grandson," Sabrina Aston said. "He was actually in the library with (the victim) but he was hiding behind the bookcases. He called Daniel of all people."
Daniel loved writing poems, his partner Wyatt Kent, and his family at Club Q where he was a bartender. It's a place where his parents were treated like family, too.
"They called us 'Mama and Papa Aston' and they treated us like a king and a queen," said Sabina Aston. "They waited on us, they'd go get drinks for us. A lot of them said, 'You know, parents don't come to these things.' A lot of them their families disowned them."
From an early age, the Astons knew their son, born a girl, wanted to be a man.
"He always liked his hair short," Sabrina Aston said. "He told us he's a boy. And then when he got a little older, he kind of hid it from other people including us. So I thought, 'Well maybe he is going through just a phase.'"
But they welcomed whatever choice Daniel made.
"At first we were just, you know, (thinking) it's going to be a hard life," Sabrina Aston said. "But he was so happy. How can you not want your child to be happy?"
Tiffany Loving knew early on, too, that her sister, Kelly, wanted to be a girl.
"She was younger," Loving said. "I just thought she was real prissy."
She said Kelly had gone to Club Q for the first time the night she was killed. Loving wasn't there five minutes before her life came to an end.
"Her birthday is on the 16th and she didn't really get to celebrate," Loving said. "She wanted to go out but being transgender, you don't just go to regular clubs sometimes because you're not accepted. She was not from there. So I think she was just going to see where it was okay to go and enjoy herself."
She says Kelly loved the transgender community and loved dressing up in glamorous ways.
"She didn't judge people, she didn't want to be judged," said Loving. "She just wanted to be beautiful and live as a woman."
Now she's left grieving a loss too painful to bear.
"I kind of feel like I lost a child that didn't birth because I always took her under my wing, always protected her," Loving said.
Stephanie Clark was the protector, too, of her younger sister Ashley Paugh. She says her sister was out for a girls' night with a friend when she was killed. She says Paugh's friend was shot, too, and survived.
"They were both married with kids and felt that that was a safe place to go over a regular bar with men hitting on them," Clark said. "They thought that it would be a safer place."
Paugh loved her husband, Kurt, their young daughter, Ryleigh, and the families and children she worked with at Kids Crossing.
"I was asked what we could do to remember her at this time, and what she would want is for us to gather and help with the foster kids and make sure that they have gifts for Christmas," Clark said.
Paugh just wanted to help people. Clark believes her sister would have even been willing to help the shooter who took her life.
"She was always there to help anybody who needed it," Clark said. "The sad thing is she would have helped him. She helped a lot with mental issues or anything like that. She could have been one that would have helped him."
Help to stop the hate that has changed their lives forever.
"I'm hoping the people learn that if someone out there, whether it is my son, my nephew, whoever having some problems, having problems, being with other people or being hateful or have some kind of mental problems, that the family are there for them and get them help, get them help before they do something to hurt people," said Bell.
"We need to get rid of this hate," said Sabrina Aston. "We need to tone it down, our divisions with each other, try to learn to get along."
"Stop being so hateful accept people for who they are," said Loving. "They're not bothering anyone."
"Be kind, be humble," said Rump's aunt Millie LaPorte.
"Ashley would want just people to love each other," said Clark.
In a statement, Governor Jared Polis said the following Sunday.
“Let this one-year anniversary be an opportunity for us all to recommit ourselves to being examples of hope and love — that is how we can honor Raymond, Kelly, Daniel, Derrick, and Ashley and keep their memories with us. Though we will always mourn for those we lost, I find hope in the Colorado Springs community today. Every time this community faces tragedy we come back stronger and I want to thank the community and applaud you for your incredible strength. We can continue to build a Colorado for All, where everyone can thrive no matter who they are, who they love, or how they identify.”