A year after a gunman attacked the Oregon District, the entire Dayton community remembers those lost and finds new ways to honor their memory and push for change for a brighter tomorrow.
For the victims and their families, the day was a time to reflect and remember, with hope for a better tomorrow. The victims, Megan Betts, Monica Brickhouse, Nicholas Cumer, Derrick Fudge, Thomas McNichols, Lois Oglesby, Saeed Saleh, Logan Turner and Beatrice Warren-Curtis are still at the forefront of memorials a year later, as well as victims of the tragedy that survived the night’s violence.
“I heard shots coming from the corner of Blind Bob’s patio,” said Alana Young, a survivor of the shooting who was interviewed by WHIO. “I turned around and started to run into Blind Bob’s; that was the point I got shot. I felt it, I looked down, and I just ran faster. I knew he was right there.”
Young was a worker at Blind Bob’s, a bar across the street from Ned Peppers. It was the alleyway next to Blind Bob’s that the shooter entered onto Fifth Street from, firing as he ran north across the street and eastward towards Ned Peppers before police stopped him.
The victims were memorialized this year by Front Street, a group of artists who have put up Tree of Life installations near the railroad bridge on Fifth Street as a way to pay tribute to the victims.
In a post on their Facebook page, the group wrote:
“Today, we are honored to have installed the ‘Tree of Life’ memorial just one year after Dayton lost nine beautiful lives and countless others were forever affected by the Oregon District mass shooting.
“Richard Lundin (Front Street’s property manager) worked with Dayton’s crisis response team and nine artists to design and create the 28-foot memorial.
“Artists Bonnie Kuntz, Hyacinth Paul, Jo Anne Vincent, Julie Riley, Lori Daugherty, Mikee Huber Artist, Rusty Harden, Samantha Mang, Sunny Simms have each painted a tree in the installment which will remain at its 5th street location, next to Lily’s Bistro, for the month of August.
“Visitors are welcome to visit the installment today and pin a note, a memory, or message of hope to the installment. The Crisis Response Team will be on-site until 6 p.m. to offer materials and support for those in need. You are in our hearts forever and always. Your light lives on.”
In an Instagram post, Ned Peppers, the bar where the shooter’s attack ended, decided to close for the anniversary of the shooting.
“In lieu of all the current events,” the Ned Peppers writes, “[We] will be closing our doors Aug. 4 in remembrance of those who lost their lives one year ago. I challenge everyone to take the day and spend it doing something you enjoy. Spend time with family and friends, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Stay Strong Dayton.”
Several other businesses in the district made the decision to close as well, though a water main break near Keowee Street and Monument Avenue in downtown Dayton that prompted a boil-water advisory Monday afternoon may have contributed to many businesses shuttering their doors.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley released an Op-ed piece in USA Today, pushing for change. In it, she speaks of her attempts in the wake of the shooting to create change in our community as well as abroad.
“For a brief moment, it seemed like something might finally break loose,” said Whaley. “The shooting in Dayton occurred just hours after the shooting in El Paso. The twin tragedies seemed to capture the nation’s attention in a new way. We thought that this time, maybe, we might be able to do something.
In the article, the mayor goes on to say:
“In many ways, the crisis we now face with COVID-19 feels familiar. With the immense human suffering of both gun violence and COVID-19, I always come back to the same thought: ‘It didn’t have to be this way.’”
The punctuation point at the end of last summer’s hardship, including the early Summer’s KKK rally downtown and the tornadoes that ripped through the region, the shooting seemed at the end of one long, arduous summer that pointed to a national, if not a global, spotlight on our small midwest city. A year later, in the midst of another, global tragedy, the community seems to be banding together, albeit six feet apart if possible.