Colorado Springs, Colorado, is gearing up for its annual Pride celebrations, but this weekend will be different from the rest.
The community is still reeling from a shooting seven months ago at the Club Q gay nightclub in town, which left five people dead and 17 wounded. This year's Pride parade will be the first since the attack.
Survivors of the Club Q shooting have been invited to serve as grand marshals in the parade this year, according to Rex Fuller, the CEO of The Center on Colfax, an LGBTQ+ community center. The center hosts the parade each year and selects the grand marshals at the front of the parade.
Michael Anderson was working behind the bar on the night of the Club Q shooting. He told Scripps News Denver he's been fighting to restore his sense of safety, and he isn't sure that will be possible. He said the shooting completely changed how he's celebrating Pride Month this year.
"I have this hyper-vigilance and hyper-awareness, which, you know, I don't know if that will ever go away," Anderson said.
The shooting unfolded quickly, with the suspect opening fire upon entering the nightclub. The gunfire was so aggressive, investigators believed rounds may have struck the exterior of a 7-Eleven store a full block away.
The suspect is expected to strike a plea deal on state murder and hate charges that would ensure at least a life sentence for the attack.
Anderson said the community will be rallying behind victims and survivors at this year's parade.
"It's not Club Q that's the grand marshal. It's the community. It's the survivors. It's the victims. It's the families of those that lost someone that night. All of us are going to come together, and it's going to be a beautiful display, I think, of the strength, of just vigilance, of fighting back and not being afraid," Anderson said.
While the attack will hang over those in attendance, Denver Pride will honor a resilient community.
In addition to having survivors as grand marshals, the festivities will also feature a number of center-stage headliners.
The event will offer something for everyone attending, as it will include a sober area, a family-friendly area and an older-adults area. The Denver Dyke March will also take place over the weekend.
Denver Pride is happening on June 24 and 25.
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