It was still early morning, when I woke up Sunday, which is unusual because usually my body lets me sleep in until closer to 9 am. I checked my phone and saw that a few people had randomly text me early in the morning. I immediately knew something was wrong.
“Did you hear about the shooting in the Oregon district??”
“Everything okay…I just found out about the Oregon district shooting…”
“Mass shooting in the Oregon district. I’m at the hospital now.”
I quickly opened Twitter to watch the first press conference of the day, recapping everything that had happened.
My friends had left my house around 12:30 – 12:45 am early Sunday morning, after celebrating a friend’s birthday earlier that night. We ate around my dining room table–it was a good time. At one point, I got on my phone and started reading about the mass shooting that had taken place in El Paso, earlier in the day. My mood changed. I wanted to talk about it, but I didn’t know how to bring it up–besides, everyone was having a good time. I went to bed feeling bothered. I heard sirens race past my open windows–usually closed, but the night was so cool I had to keep them open–and thought nothing of it.
Why should I?
Yesterday, I mostly just sat in front of the television and scrolled social media. Trying to understand all that had just happened a mile or two from my house.
The Oregon District is a favorite place to hang out with my friends. Fifth Street is especially unique. A cobblestone street. Local artists drawing on the sidewalks. Friendly faces, everywhere. Sassy and sarcastic street signs that can only make a person smile. Bars, vegan-friendly restaurants, and dog friendly shops, make this street a place that draws people from all over. Just last Friday, I sat out on the patio with two friends, catching each other up on our lives since we hadn’t seen in each other in about a month. In the middle of the week, I had gone down there to find a gift for a friend. It’s a place that brings people together and what happened early Sunday morning was unthinkable.
The city held a vigil on Fifth Street last night. I put on my Dayton tank that was gifted to me a couple years ago and second guessed on what shoes I should wear. A photo of people’s shoes haunted me–these people running for their lives, literally ran out of their shoes. I chose a pair of comfortable sandals.
I’ve never heard the street so quiet in my three years of living here in Dayton. We gathered together to remember those who had lost their lives, only hours earlier. Parts of the sidewalk was still wet from city workers washing the blood off. I’ve never been to a vigil before–even when they held one in Chattanooga in July 2015, when another mass shooting took place. My heart was broken, seeing the street packed with hundreds of people who showed up to pay their respects.
At first, you could feel the grief amongst the crowd as people got up to speak about how resilient and gritty this town was–after all, we had just survived multiple tornadoes that had ripped through the area Memorial Day weekend. Once the governor got up to speak though, you could feel the mood change.
His speech was interrupted by chants of “Do something” from all around me. You could feel the hurt (and anger) coming from these voices. I kept my composure, all the while thinking “If this thing turns, where I am escaping to?” We sang stanzas of “Amazing Grace” and sang through a couple verses of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, before they read the names of the victims. I could barely make it through the songs, I softly repeated each victim’s name, because they should be remembered.
I barely slept last night. I’m in a fog at work today. I am shaken, angry, frustrated, sad. Definitely sad.
If there’s one thing I am certain of, is the hope of Jesus Christ. I am also certain that the city of Dayton will only become stronger–unfortunately, like so many other cities who share in these tragedies.
And yet, this is America. This is what we’re desensitized to. We say “thoughts and prayers,” and go on with our lives–until the next tragedy hits, which isn’t years from the next–no, it’s days. In this case, it was hours.
I hate that this is our reality and I firmly believe that it doesn’t have to be. There are still so many emotions for me to process, but I’m not done talking about this. Thank you to those who reached out and let me know you were thinking of me.