‘All she wanted was to be accepted’: Mid-Southerners hold candlelight vigil for victims of Colorado nightclub massacre

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 10:39 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Candlelight, tears, and calls for action poured from Memphis Monday night as the local LGTBQ+ community came together to honor and remember those impacted by the Colorado Springs nightclub shooting.

Officials released the names of those who died in the Saturday night gunfire, including one who has family in Memphis.

Those who lost their lives include Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, Ashley Paugh, and Raymond Green Vance.

Police say 25 others were injured before the gunman was subdued by patrons of the club.

A vigil was held to honor those affected at OutMemphis in the Cooper-Young district Monday night. Dozens of locals came to show their support and solidarity.

“Don’t let the extremists create fear and stop you from living your life,” said Tami Montgomery, owner of Dru’s Place, a karaoke bar that often features drag shows. “I won’t live my life in fear and I won’t stop what I do every day.”

The message came through loud and clear: let’s turn these tears into good trouble.

”It’s time for action. If you’re afraid, we’ll get together and talk about it, but we have to stand up for ourselves,” Davin Clemons, founder of Tri-State Black Pride, told the crowd. “I’m here to encourage you all to get into some good trouble.”

One of the victims of the mass shooting, 40-year-old Kelly Loving, was from the Mid-South.

Her grief-stricken sister Tiffany told vigil attendees, “Kelly was really loving and kind, always trying to help regardless. Everything you all said tonight, she struggled with being accepted. That’s all she ever wanted was to be accepted.”

Afterward, while speaking with Action News 5, Tiffany said of the turnout for the candlelight vigil, “It makes me feel good. I really appreciate everybody.”

For some, this was not the first time they attended a vigil for victims of an LGBTQ-targeted shooting.

The last time Ricky Caccamisi attended a vigil at OutMemphis was after the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016, which was the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, with 49 victims killed and 53 others injured.

He said he was heartbroken there was a need for another gathering, and he felt a deep need to be here again.

“I hate that I had to come back here,” said Caccamisi, “because the last time I was here, my tears put out this candle. And I hate to see my tears put out this candle again. We’ve taken four or five steps back. I never thought I would see gay marriage, but I’m finally married. But now, I hate to go places where I’m not wanted, not welcomed. It’s just a scary situation we live in nowadays.”

Out Memphis Executive Director Molly Quinn said the vigil left her feeling renewed after the hopelessness she felt upon hearing the news of the mass shooting, especially heartbreaking since the shooting took place on Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Quinn said the focus now is on fighting state legislation in Tennessee, with bills filed soon after election day that would criminalize drag shows and stop doctors from altering a minor’s hormones or performing gender-affirming surgery.

The Mid-South LGTBQ+ community, Quinn told Action News 5, is ready to wage war.

“There are already attacks on our community from Tennessee state lawmakers,” Quinn said, “We really believe this year we’ll be targeted. We will be a really important state for the national rhetoric and trajectory of our rights. Everyone has their eyes on Tennessee.”

Quinn said their fight on capitol hill in Nashville will focus on gun control and creating a stronger mental health safety net.

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