Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, edition of the Dayton Daily News.
Horrible things happened in Dayton in 2019. Only the truly sinister or cynical would dispute that fact.
Those things cut close to our hearts and homes: the water crisis, the Klan rally, the Memorial Day tornadoes, the Oregon District mass shooting, the death of Dayton police Detective Jorge Del Rio …
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But that wasn’t the entire story of the year. Good things happened, too.
Babies were born in 2019. Love was sealed in marriage. People got promotions. We laughed, cried and ate birthday cake.
Development of the Miami Valley’s core continued. Dayton did not crumble into itself. Bloody and bruised, we pressed on.
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The community’s unwavering strength and tenacity were the thing missing from “Left Behind America,” the 2018 “Frontline” and ProPublica piece that sent so many into a tizzy.
The show got many things painfully correct:
• There is an ongoing racial divide in the Gem City.
• The Miami Valley has been hit hard by the opioid crisis.
• NCR left Dayton in 2009, leaving a major hole in the community.
• The city and those that surround it were hit hard by the Great Recession.
• There is a significant poverty issue here.
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Denying those truths would be self-destructive.
• The racial divide is no doubt one of the reasons the Klan chose to have its nub of a rally in Dayton. But they were met by 600 counter-protesters.
• The opioid crisis will surely factor in as people wrestle with the trauma of the mass shooting and tornadoes.
• The ramifications of the recession and the loss of NCR and other major employers impact the poverty exacerbated and further exposed by the tornadoes.
What “Frontline” and ProPublica missed were the lessons 2019 revealed for the world to see:
• There are bridges over the river that divides the community, and those bridges can be crossed.
• When push comes to shove, Dayton breaks out its boxing gloves and punches for its neighbors.
• Staying down is not an option in a city that knows how cold the pavement can be.
The story of Dayton and its people thankfully goes beyond the data. It’s been said time and time again in 2019, but it can’t be said enough: Dayton showed its resilience in 2019.
Gem shapes were inked into skin as a new sense of community pride was exposed. It is not just a fashion trend. It is a visual display of strength. It is determination.
It is resolve to see the city shine and for what happened in 2019 to make a difference.
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Hours before he started a chant that prompted Ohio’s governor to roll out a gun violence and mental health proposal, Bob Mendenhall, the co-owner of Blind Bob’s, stood by as firefighters washed blood from the sidewalk in front of his tavern.
He was angry. A few weeks later, Mendenhall told me he did not plan to start the “do something” chant that interrupted Gov. Mike DeWine’s address to a crowd that filled Fifth Street.
But “I’ve heard the same pabulum before,” Mendenhall told me. “I didn’t want to hear it anymore.”
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This is not it.
You won’t be able to usher 2019 out of your mind so quickly. It won’t fade away like 2018 and the year before it. The lessons cannot be lost when we sing “Auld Lang Syne.” Our pains and poverty cannot go unaddressed.
The good of 2019 doesn’t outweigh the bad. Life is far more complicated for that.
There are so many “somethings” that need to be done around gun violence and the horrible things that came our way in 2019.
The year 2019 shows Dayton has the strength to help do them.
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