Club Q hero Rich Fierro and spouse have at all times been heroes

In the summertime of 2018, I drove from Orange County to Denver and again for a bunch of freelance assignments. One among my stops was in Colorado Springs, for a topic I normally don’t care about: beer.

I’m extra of a bourbon and mezcal man. However Jess Fierro of Atrevida Beer Co. had invited me to swing by her household enterprise. She and her husband Rich had lately opened the small brewery and taproom, which on the time was one of many solely Latina-run beer firms in the US.

Over a crisp lager, Fierro instructed me her story. How she and Rich had been highschool sweethearts who grew up in San Diego. How they realized to like the artwork of beer making when Rich was stationed as an Military officer in Germany within the 2000s. How Jess, a cosmetologist by commerce, labored up the nerve to do house brewing when the Military transferred Rich to Colorado.

Jess talked concerning the thrill of profitable a beer competitors aired on the Vice community. Concerning the fright of turning a passion right into a livelihood. Extra importantly, she instructed me, she wished to make a mark as a Mexican American lady, in an trade that was overwhelmingly white and male.

She was going to do it by way of beers with pan-Latino flavors like guava and tamarind that bore intelligent Spanglish names. Jess summed up her philosophy with the identify “Atrevida,” which interprets as “daring” and is normally utilized in Mexican Spanish as a time period of grudging respect for ladies who do what they’re not purported to.

Sooner or later, her big of a husband joined us. The Fierros had been heat and humorous — and followers of mine. I took images of them in motion, and so they requested in return for a bunch photograph. She promptly posted it on Instagram, noting she was “humbled and honored” I had stopped by. I left with a vow to go to Atrevida the following time I used to be in Colorado Springs, and a promise that an article for a nationwide publication was on its means.

None of that ever got here to be.

My mom was slowly dying of ovarian most cancers. Different freelance assignments took priority. I discovered a full-time job that took me away from writing about meals. The pandemic pushed apart any tales not primarily based in Southern California. As Atrevida started to rightfully obtain nationwide consideration, any article I’d’ve written would’ve been old-fashioned. I ultimately misplaced the notes and images from my afternoon with the Fierros and needed to transfer on.

They didn’t maintain it in opposition to me. Each occasionally, Atrevida Beer Co. popped up within the feedback on the weekly Instagram Stay periods I do from my private account. At any time when they confirmed up, I’d excitedly plug the brewery and apologize for my oversight from years in the past. When a buddy did his personal profile of Jess and talked about we knew one another, she excitedly instructed him about how I had as soon as visited Atrevida.

The Fierros had been the primary folks I considered when information emerged {that a} gunman had opened hearth at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs on Saturday evening, killing 5 and injuring 18.

I stated a prayer for the deceased, bemoaned our nation’s gun legal guidelines and moved on. Hopefully, the Fierros weren’t among the many affected, I assumed.

However Monday afternoon, as I ready to report a podcast episode, an e-mail arrived. A reader requested if I had heard the “sad news” about Atrevida.

“We visited them awhile back,” the reader wrote, “and saw a picture of you there, so [don’t] know if you’re friends or had just stopped by.”

I rushed by way of my recording, then instantly gathered as a lot info as doable. I began with Atrevida’s Instagram account, which I spotted I wasn’t following. It confirmed video of Jess, Rich and a few buddies, together with their daughter Kassy and her boyfriend Raymond Inexperienced Vance, having fun with an evening out.

Within the caption, Jess revealed that they had been at Club Q when the gunman, recognized by authorities as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, shot up the venue. Jess wrote that she suffered bruising on her proper facet and that Rich injured his arms, knees, and ankle whereas serving to to subdue Aldrich.

Kassy had damaged her knee. The Fierros’ buddies “were shot multiple times.” Raymond was killed.

“This cowardly and despicable act of hate has no room in our lives or business,” Fierro wrote. “F–K HATE. It has left us and our community scarred but not broken. Much love to everyone.”

I then learn information accounts of what had occurred. Rich, who served 4 excursions in Iraq and Afghanistan and had struggled with PTSD, lived as much as the Atrevida identify. He went after the assailant virtually instantly — “I grabbed him by the back of his little cheap-ass armor,” he instructed my colleagues. Different tales revealed that he had requested a drag performer to stomp on the gunman along with her excessive heel.

Individuals on social media hailed Rich as a hero. He rapidly dismissed such ideas, telling the New York Instances he was “just a dude.”

Within the wake of the Club Q tragedy, the feel-good story of Fierro and others who helped to cease the carnage is irresistible to inform. It’s particularly interesting for Latinos, after a 12 months the place we too usually performed the villain, whether or not it was the Uvalde killer or the Los Angeles politicos whose nasty phrases about Blacks, Oaxacans and others had been the antithesis of the welcoming ambiance at Club Q.

It pains me {that a} tragedy is what lastly moved me to put in writing concerning the Fierros and Atrevida Beer Co. However everybody ought to know that they had been heroic lengthy earlier than this horrible weekend.

I bear in mind the marquee exterior the taproom that learn “Diversity, It’s Always on Tap!” — the identical emblem that’s on Rich Fierro’s immaculate classic Chevy El Camino. Jess shared with me again then how she needed to face a whole lot of racism and sexism in her trade however bore its welts as a result of she had an vital platform.

That’s why her firm proudly participated in Colorado Springs’ LGBTQ parade, she stated — a daring transfer in a metropolis with massive swaths of conservative and evangelical voters. It’s one thing they continued to do by way of the pandemic. Not solely that, however Jess adopted by way of on her acknowledged plans to mentor different girls and Latino brewers. She even named a few of her suds after Mexican American feminine icons like Dolores Huerta and the late Lengthy Seaside singer Jenni Rivera.

Alex Clemons, left, and his daughter Epifania, 11, hug whereas paying their respects at a makeshift memorial close to Club Q in Colorado Springs.

(Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Submit by way of Getty Pictures)

After scrolling by way of Atrevida’s Instagram account, rapidly catching up on their previous 4 years, I reread the New York Instances profile of Rich. In a single half, he admitted that his evening at Club Q was the primary time he had ever attended a drag present.

“These kids want to live that way, want to have a good time, have at it,” he stated. “I’m happy about it because that is what I fought for, so they can do whatever the hell they want.”

If solely the remainder of us had been as atrevidos because the Fierros.