COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - If actions speak louder than words, Daniel Aston was a champion. If one defines a life by their greatest action, Daniel Aston was a savior. If a person is left to be admired because of their courage, Daniel Aston will always be remembered as a hero.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” said a choked-up Jeff Aston, Daniel’s father, beginning to read one of Daniel’s poems.
“There's a beautiful boy at the end of the trail. There's a beautiful boy with his arms out. Facing the wind out of the valley and the clay rock. He's wishing the world would notice him. He's wishing the world would know him. I'm wishing for more clouds. So he can point to the sky and tell me which objects he thinks they look like.”
Daniel, a proud transgender man, was also an incredibly talented writer. It’s something of which is parents were so proud.
“Just knowing my son wrote that,“ said Jeff Aston. “He just had a way of putting down on paper, you could feel what he was feeling, by reading it.”
Many admired Daniel for his way with words, whether it be on paper or through conversation.
“It was part of his sweetness,” said Sabrina Aston, Daniel’s mother, with tears in her eyes.
Daniel was a bartender at Club Q. He was also, likely, the first to be killed on the night of November 19, 2022.
"Daniel wasn't supposed to be up there. I think Daniel was honestly off-shift,” said Ashtin Gamblin, Daniel’s friend. The two were taking tickets at the front door of Club Q the night of the shooting.
According to Gamblin, Daniel said something alarming, acknowledging he saw someone coming at the door. A moment later, a barrage of shots fired, so rapidly, so loud, her hearing went out.
Gamblin said it took her a second to realize what was happening. And, if not for Daniel, Gamblin wouldn’t be alive.
"Daniel did end up saving my life,” said Gamblin, who was shot nine times.
“There was a bullet that hit my breast. That was the one that would have killed me. Doctors asked 'what was in front of me?' They knew there was no reason that bullet should have stopped. And I just looked at them and I said 'Daniel.'"
It was Daniel who made the split-second, life-changing decision to step between his friend and the gunman. He took several bullets that would have been lethal to Gamblin.
Daniel was the first to see what was coming, the first to be a hero.
"He is a hero. He is my lifesaver,” said Gamblin. “Daniel was an absolute lifeline in that bar.”
A life who refused to live between the lines, at Club Q, and everywhere else people knew him, including his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"He had more friends, almost as many friends [here] as in Tulsa in two and a half years, which is crazy,” said Sabrina Aston.
"He had really hit his stride those last couple years,” said Jeff Aston, who also remembers the last thing he said to his son.
"I remember distinctly, the last two times I saw him, before he got killed, I told him, and I don't know why I told him this but I just said, 'I'm proud of you.' And I was,” he said.
Daniel was just 28-years-old when he was killed. But the impact he had on others far surpassed what many accomplish in an entire lifetime.
"He was a positive influence in the world, and he had a lot more to give the world,” said Jeff Aston. “And it was taken away from him.”
"He was always looking out for the people who were downtrodden and sad,” he said.
Daniel was a poet who took chapters of struggle and turned them into verses of strength. He was a man who will be remembered as a shoulder to lean on and a shoulder that carried a tremendous weight.
“We want him to be remembered for the person he was, and not for some tragic act,” said Sabrina Aston.
Daniel’s father voiced his biggest push for change – the strong belief that people need to truly get to know one another without passing judgement.
“He was engaging. He was outgoing. He was funny. He would be interested in you. He would ask you questions about yourself and try to get to know you,” said Jeff Aston.
“He was a champion for the underdog.”