COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A night of dancing at an LGBTQ+ club in Colorado Springs turned into panic in November 2022 for a mother and her daughter after a shooter opened fire.
On the evening of Nov. 19, 2022, mother Phylisha Priester Collins, 36, and her now-19-year-old daughter Talijah Priester went to Club Q in Colorado Springs.
"She was dancing. I was dancing," Phylisha said. "You never think that you take your kid out somewhere and you're unable to protect them."
As soon as they heard gunshots, they ran to the exit. As soon as they were outside, they were both hit.
"I looked on the ground and saw blood all around me. Then my legs started to sting,” Talijah said.
She had been shot in her right leg.
Her mother was shot in the back of her neck — the bullet penetrated an inch from her spine.
"It blew up the left side of my face," Phylisha said. "I have no jawbone. I have no teeth. They had to actually take muscle tissue, nerve and the tendon and everything out of my leg to reconstruct my jaw."
She said about six months passed before she felt OK taking her mask off in public.
"I knew I was going to get a lot of stares and stuff,” she said. “But now I walk around with my head held high because I’m here, you know? It shows strength to me. It shows courage."
Phylisha was also shot in her right thigh that night. She said two other patrons — David McRae and McRae’s boyfriend Devin Dragt— helped her and her daughter.
Club Q Shooting
Club Q: One Year Later
In the days after the shooting, McRae and Dragt recalled sitting with the women and applying pressure to their wounds.
“Kept us warm, held us, talked to us. He asked if there’s anybody I needed to call,” Phylisha remembered.
Phylisha said she was in the hospital for about 22 days. Talijah was in the hospital for about a week. A year later, they're both still dealing with complications.
"Can't drink regularly. I have to drink from a straw,” Phylisha said. “Certain things get stuck in my cheek — the way it's shaped inside. A lot of numbing. My face is always asleep, like my leg is.”
Talijah said her leg still stings sometimes.
"Then it goes numb and then it feels like I have electricity going all the way from where I was shot down to my toes,” she said.
The mental pain is very real for them. They both suffer from nightmares.
"You go to the doctors, they prescribe you this medication, you're on antidepressants, you're on other things but it doesn't help, because you're constantly thinking about it," Phylisha said.
She stressed that people should never forget those who survived that day.
“This is something that is going to last a lifetime for us survivors,” she said. “I don't want nobody to forget us because we made it and even though we made it, we're still struggling. “
“I feel like everybody just cares at the moment, instead of thinking about what we have to go through every day,” Talijah added.
Despite the daily mental and physical pain, Talijah said she's trying to live a normal life. Phylisha said she tends to stay home more. One thing she hopes to figure out at some point is why they survived.
“We are here for a reason," Phylisha said. "I don't know what that reason is yet, but I hope I do find out and fulfill it."