Agata Popęda here, with a sad and unusual invitation because I tend to recommend fun events. This one is perhaps the opposite, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary or less interesting to attend. A local vigil for the victims of the Colorado Springs shooting, which happened inside a nightclub on Nov. 19, will take place tonight at 6pm at the Epiphany Lutheran Church in Marina.
While Colorado Springs is three states and hundreds of miles away, LGBTQ+ communities all over the world come together to honor the dead and discuss the problem—again, and again. According to NPR, the man who shot five people dead in Club Q, a gay nightclub, was 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, who threatened his mother with a homemade bomb just one year ago, forcing his neighbor to evacuate. He had little social media footprint.
The tragic pattern is clear—a young man with easier access to guns than to proper education, mental healthcare and a hopeful future. Testosterone and lack of hope is not a good combination; add to it unlimited, uncivilized access to military weapons and the effect is deadly.
But the real sympathy of the world, the nation and the Monterey County community is with the five who lost their lives to our cultural wars, and the countless others that got injured, traumatized and retraumatized in Colorado Springs. Three local nonprofit organizations—Monterey Peninsula Pride, Salinas Valley Pride Celebrations and The Epicenter—are coordinating to host the local vigil to remember the victims, but also to make sense of what happened. While the Monterey Peninsula doesn’t have a gay club anymore, is that safer or more dangerous to the gay community?
“It will be sad and moving,” the organizers write. The plan is to ask what it means for the local community to grieve in solidarity across the country. Other questions that the community will pose to its members are: What steps can be taken to improve safety?
“We believe that even if you don’t participate in them, having Pride events creates a sense of community that helps people coming out,” says Salinas Valley Pride President Eric Mora. “And conversely, hate crimes create a sense of distress, a reminder of violence and hatred that still plagues our community.”
Mora says that Salinas Valley Pride and the Epiphany Lutheran Church in Marina want to create a safe space to come together and stand in solidarity with Colorado victims. “Grief takes many different forms,” he adds. “Some people want to process this alone, but others crave the sense of community after a tragedy like this.”
Mass shootings, vigils and protests take place with a scary regularity. In 2016, to name just one example, then-29-year-old Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in a mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. At the time the group Our Gente (which now is part of a larger project The Epicenter) held a vigil to commemorate the victims. They did it again for the one-year anniversary in 2017.