Dayton Strong: Recovery in the Wake of Mass Shooting

by Chloie Benton

On Aug. 4, the Dayton community fell to its knees after Ohio’s largest mass shooting claimed the lives of nine people and injured 27 others. The 24-year-old gunman entered the popular Oregon District early Sunday morning with an AR-15-style assault rifle and a 100-round drum magazine. He fired for 32 seconds, killing nine, including his sister, Megan, before the police shot and killed him in the doorway of a packed bar.

Rose Tyler, a Dayton resident and friend of the shooter’s sister, was shocked when she learned of the shooting in her hometown and grief-stricken when she learned of Megan’s death. Tyler  remembers Megan as “hilariously funny and very kind” and wants to honor her  legacy by not living in fear.

Tyler encourages the Dayton community to move forward by “reawakening our sense of community. It is incredibly easy to disconnect from one another, and at this time we need to realize everyone is suffering together. We can find hope in the love and support which is emerging in the wake of tragedy.”

Dayton has already taken the first steps on the road to recovery. A tragedy fund for Oregon District victims and their families was set up by the Dayton Foundation, and money quickly began pouring in.

Days after the shooting, “Dayton Strong” T-shirts were produced and sold by Heart Mercantile, a gift shop located in the Oregon District, with all proceeds going toward the Oregon District fund. Other stores joined in, selling various gift paraphernalia and donating proceeds.

Immediately following the shooting, Dave Chapelle, the famous comedian who lives in Yellow Springs, initiated “Gem City Shine,” a benefit concert in the Oregon District focused on remembering the victims and restoring joy in the grieving community. Chapelle was joined by Chance the Rapper, Stevie Wonder, Talib Kweli and other artists to bring light into the grieving city.

The crowd was a blend of emotions, but amidst tears Dayton experienced the power of community as 20,000 people gathered to heal through the power of music. Oregon District restaurants opened and welcomed customers, reporting overwhelming and heartwarming love and support. The concert raised almost $70,000 for the Oregon District fund, which has now reached over $2.5 million.

Almost a month after the tragedy, Oregon District streets are reminiscent and respectful of victims and their families. “Dayton Strong” signs are plastered on brick buildings, hung from fences, and written in chalk on the sidewalk. Pink, yellow and blue crocheted blankets are wrapped around light poles with encouraging notes attached. Window panes are covered in multicolored sticky notes, with handwritten affirmations and encouragement for readers to live well and love others deeply.

One rain-warped post-it reads “The world would be a better place if there were more people like you,” and another: “You can inspire others.”

They are collectively signed with the quote “we rise by lifting others everyday,” a motto which has been adopted by Oregon District residents. Shops and restaurants exhibit signs encouraging passers-by to stay strong and support Dayton in the midst of pain. Other notes are made out to the Dayton Police, thanking them for their courageous service.

Undoubtedly the most touching work gracing the street is a memorial to the victims found in a small alcove of an empty store. A charcoal artwork displays the faces of the individuals who lost their lives. “We Will Never Forget” and “Dayton Strong” are written around the faces. Yellow and white roses surround the memorial as well as star ornaments and post-it notes.

Moving forward from the tragedy will be difficult, but Oregon District residents are not willing to give up. A joyful resident has spent his weekends dressing up as
Spider-Man and standing in front of Oregon District stores, high-fiving kids and posing for pictures.

His goal is to help Dayton recover by “showing a lot of love, supporting the District, and making people smile despite the tragedy.”

Chloie Benton is a senior Cedarville University student and an Off-Campus writer for Cedars.

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