Lori Falce: This holiday season, let us all be heroes against hate

Nov. 25—This column runs on Fridays, which means that on the day after Thanksgiving, it generally runs toward traditions and holidays.

I have used it to talk about Black Friday shopping with my husband, my love of turning leftovers into soup and the Christmas cards I want to mail but never do. In that post-holiday glow, I like to reach out a hand rather than shake a fist or wag a finger.

But this year, my thoughts about decorating and Hallmark movies are interrupted by bullets. Again.

Colorado Springs joined the sad roster of cities marked by mass shootings. In a state already defined by murderous events like the Columbine school shooting in 1999 and the Aurora theater shooting in 2012, now Colorado Springs is on the map with a thunderstorm of gunfire at Club Q that claimed the lives of five people and left so many more wounded.

The shooter, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, is charged with murder and "bias-motivated crimes," the term Colorado uses for hate crimes. The hate in question was directed at an LGBTQ nightclub amid a drag show, the night before an all-ages drag brunch.

The victims included transgender individuals and others just on hand to enjoy the entertainment or support friends.

One of the heroes who subdued Aldrich was Richard Fierro, a retired Army veteran there with family, including his daughter and her boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, one of the victims. Fierro was there to support a friend of his daughter, who was performing. Despite tackling the shooter, disarming him and beating Aldrich with his own gun, he insists he did nothing special.

"I'm not a hero," Fierro said in an interview. "I'm just some dude."

But he is a dude who made a difference. If Fierro is not a hero, he's the kind of not-a-hero we all should be. Not just because he did what needed to be done in the face of danger, but because he did the kind and thoughtful and completely normal thing of supporting another person just by being in the club that night.

We need to stop thinking of groups of people — including but not limited to the LGBTQ community — as different from the main body of society because it simply isn't true. When we think of each other as different, it leads to ranking who is better and who is worse. Slowly, that pushes us further apart until it's easier to think of some groups as not people at all.

That is how hate crimes happen. That is how gay clubs in Colorado and Orlando become slaughterhouses, how black churches burn and how a synagogue in Squirrel Hill becomes the site of the greatest antisemitic massacre in U.S. history.

This Thanksgiving weekend, as we head into a season of peaceful and joyful holidays of many religions and cultures, let us all channel a little bit of that "just some dude" everyday heroism. God knows we all need it.

Lori Falce is a Tribune-Review community engagement editor. You can contact Lori at lfalce@triblive.com.