32 seconds in the Oregon
The city is in our name. That’s among the reasons why on Aug. 4, the day of the mass shooting, we held the city close in our hearts. When we spoke, the word “Dayton” stuck in the catch in our throats. Its sorrow reflected in the tears in our eyes.
This is our city.
And the Oregon District is among this city’s gems. An entertainment strip along three blocks of East Fifth Street, it is encompassed by a historic neighborhood where families live, shop and worship.
You didn’t have to be on Fifth Street that night to feel the terror caused by a single gunman outside the bars Ned Peppers and Blind Bob’s.
Thirty-two seconds. Nine killed. Two-hundred and forty-eighth mass shooting in America this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and coming only 12 hours after the massacre by a gunman in El Paso, Texas, left 22 dead.
On these pages, 10 members of our Flyer family share their voices on the tragedy. They reflect on that night and consider the path forward. The road is unclear, but their conviction is strong, with faith in God and the opportunity to make change leading them on.
This is their city. And yours.
By Emily Skill ’17
The night of the shooting, I was in the Hole in the Wall, a bar right next door to Ned Peppers. We were just having a normal night, and then we saw people sprinting out the back of the bar. The music shut off, and I heard someone shout “shooting!” But when I looked at the back door, there was a bottleneck, and I thought, “I’m not going to be able to get out.” The shots were so loud, and it felt like the shooter was coming into the bar. I didn’t know what other option there was but to run into the bathroom. Pretty soon, there were 15 other people in there. We all laid on the ground because a bullet could easily go through the wooden door. … People were banging on the other side of the door, crying to let them in, but we couldn’t. It was jam-packed, and we couldn’t keep opening the door. …
When things got quieter, a police officer told us to evacuate the area and go somewhere safe. It was really scary, trying to get away but not knowing where “safe” is. We ended up taking cover behind a cement wall. That’s when I called my stepsister to pick us up.
I listen to a news podcast every morning, and whenever there’s a story about a mass shooting, the survivors say the same thing: “I never thought it would happen to me.” Even the night I experienced it, it didn’t feel real: “Could it actually happen in our hometown at this place I know is safe?”
I still have a hard time accepting that our neighbor Logan was one of the nine people killed that night. No one should have to experience this.
I was hesitant to post about this experience on social media, but we need to talk about it. People need to see who this has affected, recognize that it could happen to any of us, and demand change.
Emily is a project developer for Enyo Renewable Energy, a company based out of Salt Lake City that develops utility-scale wind and solar projects.
By Maura Donahue ’90
In the tiny bathroom of the bar just next door to Ned Peppers, my daughter Emily huddled on the floor with 15 other
people, hearing the barrage of gunshots and hoping that the bullets wouldn’t come through the door.
Only 45 minutes before, Emily and my stepdaughter Claire Fackel-Darrow, both UD grads, and Claire’s boyfriend, current UD student Zach Wasson, had been enjoying a beautiful, warm Dayton night on the front patio of the Hole in the Wall bar. While Claire and Zach left the area before the shooting, Emily stayed with other friends. Emily survived and is physically OK, but she was terrified. It is still hard for me to comprehend that I could have lost all three of them on that front patio if the shooter had started his rampage just a little bit earlier.
Unfortunately, Emily’s experience is not our only connection to the Oregon shooting. I learned later in the day that Logan M. Turner, age 30, had been killed. Logan was our next-door neighbor when my children were growing up in Springboro, Ohio, and they all played together at our house and in the neighborhood for years. This dear, sweet boy was a gift, and now he is gone.
I have had enough of these senseless losses. The Oregon shooting has galvanized me into action. While I was powerless over the shooter, I do have the power to let my senators and representatives know that I support common-sense gun laws. I wrote to them to share my personal experience with gun violence.
My daughter is a survivor of a mass shooting. Why did I wait until gun violence got personal? I don’t have a good answer for that. My wish for anyone reading this is for them to speak up now about ending gun violence. Don’t do what I did and wait for it to get personal. It just might.
Maura is an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.
By Art Jipson
I consider the Oregon District part of my home. It is not unusual for me to be there three or four times a week. People jokingly ask if I live there. I eat there. I drink there. I watch bands perform there.
People say that they cannot believe something like this could have happened there because the Oregon District is a vibrant community with people from all walks of life, classes, genders, orientations and backgrounds coming together. Everyone is welcome in the “Oregon.”
I’ve been involved in music in the city of Dayton for more than a decade. I create a radio show every Tuesday on Flyer Radio, focusing on independent, regional and Dayton music. I was a few blocks away the night this tragedy happened, listening to one of my favorite bands playing at South Park Tavern. We had thought about going to Blind Bob’s right as the events were unfolding but decided at the last minute to head home.
I learned what happened after I returned home. I was in tears, emotionally devastated. I do not have words for this — and I study extremist behavior. I needed time to process.
I dedicated my next radio show to Dayton music. In my 15 years of doing this show, this was the first time I cried on air. After the show, there was a powerful response on our social media accounts from people saying my emotional honesty helped them in their own process of healing because we were all hurting.
I have made it a point to go back to the Oregon District because I will not allow this horrific tragedy to stop me from participating in this vibrant community. No one should feel unsafe. No one should have to fear for their life in Dayton. I hope a senseless act of violence does not prevent people from participating in the cultural life of this city.
Art is an associate professor of sociology. He can be heard on Flyer Radio Tuesdays 3-6 p.m. and online at wudr.udayton.edu.
By MaryJane Plote ’20
In El Paso, you can go to someone’s house for a visit and leave with a stack of tortillas and all the food you need for the next three days. It is such a warm, beautiful place. I was blessed to have been born and raised there.
And I am blessed to be a graduate assistant at UD.
Like so many others, I got a news alert on my phone that there was an active shooter in El Paso. The Walmart is 14 minutes from where I grew up, where after a day at the mall we’d walk over to grab eggs or milk.
I spent my Saturday contacting family and friends who raised me. They were safe, but they were not OK. Fear shook their voices.
And then the shooting happened in Dayton. “Hey, are you OK?” my friend Jesus texted me, mirroring my earlier message to him. In just 12 hours, our roles reversed.
On any other night, I would have been in the Oregon District. My friends and I would have walked into Lucky’s Tap Room, and the wait staff would have recognized us and delivered an order of sweet potato fries for the table. Instead, we were out dancing two blocks away at Therapy Café on Latin night, celebrating the culture we love.
I went to 10 a.m. Mass that morning in UD’s chapel. It was hard to sit there and sing, “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace to people of goodwill.” People of goodwill were downtown. People of goodwill were doing their grocery shopping. That’s not peace.
If I didn’t believe in the Resurrection, I couldn’t get through this. This feels like Good Friday, and I’m just trying to get to Easter.
MaryJane coordinates Masses through Campus Ministry.
By Leslie Rosell Gonya ’94
Just starting our vacation on St. George Island, Florida, my husband, Jeff ’95, and I were getting up for 8:30 Mass when we heard the news of the shooting. My first thought was of my neighbors.
We live in the Oregon District, three blocks from Fifth Street. I run Inn Port, a bed and breakfast a block from Fifth. The district is a place where you take a walk and you don’t just say hello to your neighbors; you stop and talk. Long before the shooting, it was a place of connection and empathy — when someone’s sick or a spouse passes or somebody has to move away.
That morning, we heard the news on Jeff’s phone; mine had no service. After Mass we drove until it did so I could return the calls of friends and customers who didn’t know we were out of town.
We returned to Dayton a week later. Feeling the need to walk down Fifth, we headed to Blind Bob’s, our usual site for Sunday brunch. Somebody was at the door; it looked like he was checking IDs or collecting a cover charge.
I thought, “I’m not going to pay a cover to hear heavy metal music on Sunday.”
We learned it wasn’t a heavy metal band. The performer was John Legend — one of only 15 people to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony — returning home to Ohio to honor Dayton’s first responders and others.
So we ate down the street at the Trolley Stop, a place which, like much in the district, has changed over the years and is still the same.
The shooting and its aftermath are hard to process. What happened here happened to all of us in the neighborhood. We are doing the best we can. There are a lot of hugs. The Aug. 4 shooting will not define us.
Nobody here is talking about going anywhere else.
The Gonyas have lived in the Oregon District for 17 years. Leslie organizes and hosts road trips to numerous Dayton Flyers men’s basketball road games.
By Shaughn Phillips ’15
I work on Fifth Street. I live on Fifth Street. I’m the director of evangelization in young adult ministry for three Catholic churches including Holy Trinity. I live in St. Anne’s Hill a few blocks away. Sunday morning I woke up to text messages from friends saying, “Hey, are you OK?” My first response was, whoa, I need to get down to Holy Trinity. We needed to make sure our doors were open. This is my community. These are my friends who I work with, and I pray with, and I play with.
There was a larger than normal crowd for Mass, and people were just stunned. As a lay Marianist, I think of Mary standing at the foot of the cross as her son was dying. She doesn’t say anything. What do you say? I think Mary is a good model for us in these situations when there is nothing we can say. Rather, it’s a ministry of presence. That’s what my parish community wanted to offer that day.
The Congregation of the Holy Cross, which founded the University of Notre Dame where I went to grad school, has the motto “Ave Crux, Spes Unica” — Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope! Moments of grace happen in the midst of darkness. God’s grace still abounds. That first week was God giving me just enough to get to the next moment. And it was very much moment to moment. It’s beautiful how grace works. It was a real respite for me to attend the prayer service on campus a few days later and just allow myself to be. It’s in the small moments that we get to proclaim the joy of the Gospel, to share that we are an Easter people, a resurrection people who will not let doubt have the final word.
One of the beautiful things in our Catholic social teaching is subsidiarity — commitment to our neighbor. Jesus says, “Love your neighbor.” I think that’s especially needed in the world we live in today that craves community, that craves connectivity, that craves a sense of belonging, that craves love. God is love. That encounter gives us a sense of new direction. And a new horizon and purpose and meaning in our lives.
By Rodney Chatman, UD chief of police
What our officers saw and did Aug. 4 were things no human being should have to see or do or experience in any kind of way.
We received a call that the Dayton police needed help, that there was a shooting involved, but our officers didn’t know the extent of what was taking place. But people in this profession — they run to the danger, not knowing the gravity of what it is, not knowing if that’s the last thing they’ll do on the face of this earth.
We are trained to respond as if there is more than one shooter, and so our officers were cognizant that there still may be danger afoot, and they put themselves in a position to assist in any way and make sure that wasn’t the case. I walked onto the scene after our officers had already arrived, and I had no idea what I was walking into. I started looking for our officers, and as I walked down the sidewalk, I saw two bodies that had been covered up. When I turned … it was horrific, and I’ve been in this profession for 30 years. Our officers performed admirably and professionally; they were 100 percent spot-on with their training. But it was the most horrific work that anyone can imagine.
My main focus now is on the emotional well-being of our officers. You can’t experience something like that without being emotionally impacted by it, but police officers learn to put that emotion off in the moment.
We pull over and deal with so many people with guns; it is unbelievable. When I started my career, I remember when an officer on the department encountered a gun out on the streets, it was kind of a big deal. Recovering a gun was a topic of conversation. Now we get so many people with guns that taking guns off people and out of cars rarely rates above regular conversation. This really hits home for us because of what happened Aug. 4.
As horrific as the Aug. 4 events were, I fear I may witness another similar event at some point. But that possibility doesn’t scare me nearly as much as the thought of not being surprised if I do.
By Ryan Culhane ’20
While most of UD’s athletes are not from this area, we want to help. So we decided to create T-shirts with the logo “Dayton Strong” on them, sell them, and give 100% of the proceeds to The Dayton Foundation, which is giving aid to victims of the shooting.
We made 3,400 and have already sold 3,100. We want to sell them all by the end of September. That is our goal.
We are not doing this to get credit. All the athletes got together and just knew that if we could help, then we had to help. It was our duty to use our platform for the community that has always shown us love and support.
It’s so important to show that there is good in the world and light in dark times. The Dayton community has always had our backs, so now it’s time that we have theirs.
Ryan is a senior offensive guard for Flyer football and co-community service chair of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Information on the T-shirts can be found on Twitter @udsaac.
By Rhyan Pearson ’21
When I first heard, I think I was just in shock. You never think something like this is going to happen so close. It was a relief it wasn’t on campus.
First and foremost, as members of the Student Government Association we wanted students to know that the SGA is here for them. Everyone deals with this stuff in different ways, and it’s so easy to think that oh, it’s not happening around me, or, campus is safe. Nowhere is truly safe, but now we figure out how to move forward with education and initiatives that will bring people together and find solutions.
At our first campus-wide meeting this September we will talk with the student body to hear what they have to say, answer questions, ask for suggestions and talk about any issues they want us to carry forward to the administration. It’s hit our community now. There’s no avoiding it anymore.
Rhyan is director of special programs for SGA.
By Kelly Johnson
The beginning of the year always has a buzz around it. It’s that feeling of being at the top of the roller coaster with a wild ride coming at us, and fast. We have tried to plan but we cannot script the year. For me, this year’s excitement is edged with more anxiety than usual. Friends, things are not going to get easier.
So I’m here to tell myself and to tell you: This is a good time to be alive. This is a good time for us to be right here, to be together, to be uncertain, to be fragile, not to be in control of our world, and to act boldly in love anyway. We are in trouble, and loving God will get us into more trouble. That’s what it is to be a human creature in this broken world that is so loved by God. That’s a good gift.
Kelly is the Father William J. Ferree Chair of Social Justice. Her reflection from the prayer service to start the school year can be read in its entirety at bit.ly/UDM-courageandhope.