Florida shoots survivors to help a new cohort of victims cope * Florida

Images of a massive police operation, bouquets of flowers on the sidewalk and Pride flags raised in solidarity outside a Colorado Springs nightclub have Keinon Carter wondering if anything has changed since he was shot dead at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub seven years ago .

“I’m just amazed. How could that happen again?” he said during an interview Monday. “We still have to fight out there. What happened with Pulse is obvious that we didn’t get the message across well enough.”

Shooting suspect at Colorado gay bar before murder, hate crime charges

It was a hot summer night in Florida on June 12, 2016. Carter and his friend Antonio Brown were having a few drinks when filming began.

His physical wounds are still healing after all this time. The wound of losing Antonio is forever.

Shooting victims, clockwise from top right: Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Ashley Paugh, Derrick Rump, Raymond Green Vance (Family photos via CSPD)

READ: Victims of Colorado Springs gay bar shooting identified

Now a new cohort of victims and survivors is emerging in Colorado. Those who survived this weekend’s Club Q shooting are beginning their own similar journey.

“Smile at what that person used to be or who they were,” Carter advised those still shaken by their losses. “It helps turn the frown into a smile when you’re crying.”

The scene was related to the Club O shooting on Sunday, November 20, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Staver/For the Washington Post)

MORE: The Colorado Springs shooting brought backers an “incredible act of heroism,” the mayor says

Like Keinon, Brandon Wolf also wants to make it harder for extremists to access guns. Wolf is a spokesman for Equality Florida and says speaking out against hate speech is crucial because too often words turn into violence.

“This gives us as a national movement, as an LGBTQ civil rights movement, a moment to come to the table and ask ourselves, ‘What’s next? How are we going to fight back? How will we continue to share our stories in a way that humanizes us?’” Wolf said.

TIED TOGETHER: Shooting at Colorado LGBTQ nightclub: 5 dead, 25 injured in attack on gay club, police say

He was also in Pulse on June 12th. He managed to escape through an emergency exit.

Two of his friends died.

“Escape from the bathroom with my life is one of them [memory] It’s clear that I wish I wouldn’t hide behind my eyelids every time I fall asleep and call my friends’ parents to tell them their kids aren’t coming home,” he explained.

Wolf said Equality Florida members will go to Colorado to help groups honor the lost and strengthen the community against hate.