COLORADO SPRINGS — Last year's mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs shook the LGBTQIA2+ community.
"I remember that morning, it was just all a bunch of queer people in Colorado Springs, like texting each other, making sure like, okay, are my friends, okay? Or is everybody safe? So it [was] kind of just a big scramble the morning after." Keeley Griego, Digital and Community Educator for Inside Out Youth Services in Colorado Springs said.
Grief and fear are just a few of the emotions Griego remembers feeling in the days after the shooting.
"It's kind of a blur because not only did it impact us each as individuals, as queer people in Colorado Springs who have maybe gone to Club Q or knew people who go there or have friends who were there that night, and then, you know, our work, we had to go into work mode," Griego said.
Inside Out Youth Services has been a place of refuge for LGBTQ+ youth in Colorado Springs for the last 30 years. After the shooting at Club Q, the physical space teens and young adults gathered had to shut down after an abundance of threats online.
While its physical space was closed, Inside Out Youth Services worked to help youth through the impacts of the shooting. The group offered virtual services, including a Discord community online, and also held in-person events at undisclosed locations to protect everyone.
"I think that it's important for people to know how hard of a year it's been for the local LGBTQIA+ community and for Inside Out Youth Services, because after dealing with that level of hate and violence and loss, and then it wasn't the end," Griego said.
The organization shut down its Twitter account after it couldn't keep up with all of the hateful comments it was receiving.
"There was just endless, endless hate like we couldn't even get through all of it," Griego said.
Inside Out's community center was closed for the Thanksgiving break after the tragedy, but it remained closed until March. The organization took time to ramp up its security efforts, which included an armed guard. Griego said the staff had numerous conversations about what its security measures would look like moving forward.
"It was a scary idea at first because it was not what we were used to," Greigo said, "that was a really long and difficult decision. It's like, where's the budget for that? How are we going to bring somebody in who has a firearm, which was difficult after our community just faced gun violence."
The community center reopened in March. Inside Out said it's seen an increase in youth since the tragedy at Club Q reaching out to their organization for help.
"The fact that they can come here and just kind of let their guard down is really a huge support for them. It's really important," Griego said.
Since the tragedy, Griego said Colorado Springs needs more education and understanding for the LGBTQIA2+ community. Her hope is one day the organization's services will not be needed.
"So we'd love to get to that place one day. I don't know if it's within our lifetimes, I don't know, but if it's not, we're going to be here," Griego said.