When Your Favorite Hangout Spot turns into a Shooting Zone

Image: Katie Montgomery

Image: Katie Montgomery

The feeling was the strongest right when I woke up. Checked my phone to see a “Are you okay?” message about a shooting in my hometown. Immediately I went to Google and found the answer I was looking for. Not only was it a shooting, it was a mass shooting in a neighborhood so popular and loved. I thought about how safe I felt in the Oregon District and how things are going to be different now. Looked at photos of myself and others having fun there, always appreciative of the neighborhood. Thought about how we always say “It could happen to anyone and at anyplace!” but that feeling doesn’t sink in until your community is unexpectedly hurt. Walked out of my room and turned on the TV, Dayton and El Paso flashing across the national news channels. The feeling was strong. The feelings were shock, numbness, and anger all at once. I am someone who didn’t lose anyone personally, so I can’t imagine how others are feeling. The day went on, the only thing I wanted to focus on was taking action and the only thing I could think about was our community. I always have had strong feelings about how communities and loved ones are devastated by gun violence, but this made that feeling stronger. Now, I’m going to stop occasionally doubting stricter gun laws and fight more than before. With more research and work, I’ll strengthen my side of the “debate”. The debate we shouldn’t have to have. Mass shooting, gun control, El Paso, and Dayton hashtags and stories were trending all day. Celebrities and politicians were posting and speaking either angrily or with condolences, or both. Posting about Dayton, a place they’ve likely never been. Those news articles, segments, tweets, and Trump statements are still coming, I wonder when they’ll stop, leaving Dayton just another affected community. My dad and I went to the vigil that started a 8:00 pm. We stood right to the side of the platform which meant we were the closest we could’ve possibly been. Cameras, police, and a large crowd in all directions were surrounding. The people close got to shake Governor DeWines hand while he approached and got to thank Mayor Whaley. I had never met a well known politician till then. They started by releasing 10 doves, 1 signifying those who survived, the other 9 for those who had been killed. The crowd and I listened to city commissioners, Oregon district business owners, the Mayor, religious leaders praying and representing their religion, singers, politicians. The speeches were primarily about the Dayton community and unity, but some had some words about needing change and action. The moment that got the most news attention is definitely during Governor Mike DeWines speech. People in the audience chanted “Do something!”. The videos don’t quite do the moment justice, it was so chilling live. DeWine was a bit shaken, and right after he sat back down, Mayor Nan Whaley told Dayton she loved us but that this was a vigil and there will be time for action later. We lit our candles, sang, and it was over. Many stayed, talking, hugging, crying, getting interviewed. Ned Pepper’s the bar of the shooting, had flowers and candles in front of it, a popular area to mourn. I spoke to a few people, including the Mayor, and then we walked back to the car.

We always see photos of communities mourning and of services, so it’s weird to be a part of one. I feel guilty that I’m not as strongly affected as others. There was also multiple other shootings in Chicago within the same time frame that have not gotten nearly as much attention as they should have. And the El Paso mass shooting is especially a big deal because it was purposeful hate crime against immigration and Latinos.

No one knows when this will stop, and everyone is affected. As the words of the audience in the Oregon District Vigil, do something.

Katie Montgomery Comment