Last night at 1:07 AM a mass shooter ripped through the heart of Dayton’s famous Oregon District in a hail of gun fire that ended in the loss of nine innocent lives and resulted in the killer himself being shot by DPD (who were already there, and in less than 60 seconds saved dozens of lives by bravely running directly toward the gunfire). 24 year old Conner Betts, a white male from Bellbrook, shot his 22 year old sister, a student of the Biology Department at Wright State University where I am currently an undergrad, and 27 others before Dayton Police officers were able to surround him and neutralize the situation from becoming more deadly. Many injuries were treated and released from Grandview, Miami Valley, and the Soin, and nine lives were lost upon arrival of first responders. Of the shop owners one changed their marquis sign to read, “Thanks Dayton Police, Dayton Strong, Love.” Countless others have reached out via social media to express their sorrow and loss, and to encourage our community in the Oregon District to remain united and “fearless” as we were described by Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.
There was also tension amongst Daytonians when the stage was taken by Governor Mike Dewine. As he spoke about the general loss and the strength of our city, he was met with chants from the crowd (including myself) to “Do Something!” The chanting went on long enough that the GOP leader, who recently fashioned Ohio’s version of the heart beat bill and other controversial conservative policies, had to say his thanks and hand the mic back to Mayor Nan. The democrat city leader was quickly able to reign the crowd back to focus however, telling us, “Just to remind you this is a vigil where we are trying to come together.” The crowd except for one regained its composure and the event proceeded without any more significant retaliations. Congressman Mike Turner, also a controversial GOP leader in the state of Ohio, was met with a momentary chant of, “go home,” which was quickly silenced by the people to my right. Apparently we’ve heard that phrase enough lately as well as Americans.
Dayton as a whole seems rattled and in shock. Several of my friends and community members were present at the vigil this evening. And the feeling of community has never been stronger. There were tears, dozens of children and parents, hundreds (maybe more than I have ever seen in the District) of people from every race, religious background, political ideology and class status all interlocked within an inch of each other. We were packed from one end of the road by the Oregon Express down to the Toxic Brew. A reporter for the New York Times was in attendance and interviewed myself and a friend from the University; us explaining that neither of us knew any of the victims personally but that we as Daytonians were here in solidarity with our community. I saw people smiling, hugging, crying and sharing stories. There were flowers at the door step of Ned Peppers where most of the victims were found, and people sobbing their respects and goodbyes. It was like watching a news reel of some other town. Everyone was stunned… how can this be our city?
We don’t know the answer. There is an increase in white domestic terror acts, and the numbers are alarming but not as much as the blind eye being given the situation by the dominant class who seems hell-bent on ignoring the variables. If as a society we cannot agree upon what to do to stop this from happening, I urge everyone to stop and at least observe the cultural phenom that is unravelling at the cost of hundreds of innocent lives per year. We have had more American mass shootings, mostly by white, young, conservative males, than we have had days within the year; 251 mass shootings in 216 days. With El Paso and Chicago right on top of our tragedy we are in the national spot light in the worst possible way. Dayton, Ohio is now home to a sad reality that too many other communities have been made to suffer. We are now home to a mass shooting that stole some of our loved ones away too early, too violently, and I believe that as a city Dayton will unite in a fight to stop this senseless killing and reclaim our streets from the threat of domestic terror. With a lot of love and a little time to heal, anything is possible my friends.
Please take care of yourselves. Please take this time to check my sources below for tips on surviving mass shootings, and always be prepared. This is America. This is the reality we live as Americans. And as human beings we can change this narrative. Be brave and be safe, sweet world. You are so loved.