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Strong is our only option

Strong is our only option

Michelle Tedford September 12, 2019

We huddled in the basement bathroom for three hours, the dog and daughter crowded into a shower filled with pillows and blankets, my husband and I sitting on the tile floor. At first, it was for the tornado a county away from us. I’m a wimp when it comes to severe weather, but now that we have a child, I’ve renamed it caution. Another tornado touched down just to the north of us. And then another to the east. Our power went out, and we sat in the glow of the phone, watching the meteorologist turn pale as a magenta blob on the weather map indicated a tornado touching down in a place filled with homes and people.

It was heading straight for us.

That EF4 tornado more than a half mile wide would be on the ground for 19 miles and 30 minutes before it was done chewing up houses and spitting out dreams. It was one of 19 tornadoes in our region that night that left more than 2,000 structures destroyed or uninhabitable in Montgomery County alone. Among the damage was our sense of safety.

To say we were “lucky” that the tornado took a jog south implies all those neighbors whose homes were splintered and shattered were simply “unlucky.” We fail when grasping for the language of the unexplainable.

Man clearing downed treesYet we find a way to articulate our strength.

That was the second time this summer we would need to be #DaytonStrong. The first was two days earlier, when more than 500 counter-protesters showed the nine members of a Klan-affiliated group that hate is not welcome in our town.

The pain yet to come was unfathomable.

In this issue, we bring you 10 voices touched by the mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District. None of those 10 were physically injured by the shooter, but in their words you’ll feel the pain and hope shared by so many in our community.

At the funeral for one of the nine people massacred, a father’s grief over the casket of his son shook his being and sent waves of sorrow over the pews. We wept — not for the first time, and not for the last.

A bullet doesn’t just rip through flesh; it can fracture a psyche and a community. But we are #DaytonStrong. It says so on T-shirts and bracelets and bright lighted signs on public buses. It’s present in our actions, of clearing downed trees and donating to relief funds.

#DaytonStrong bonds us, stitching together our grief and outrage as well as our resilience and resistance. We will not hide. We will again reclaim our sense of safety, the same wish we have for every community on an ever-growing list that must come to an end.