The Oregon District’s unofficial mayor saw things he never thought he would the hours after police say a 24-year-old Bellbrook man shot and killed nine people and injured scores more.
There was the horrific footage captured on Blind Bob’s Bar surveillance system that sickened manager Andy Rowe when he watched it remotely.
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And then there were the bodies Rowe saw with his own eyes from a window above Bob’s after arriving at the Oregon District bar to give the videos to police investigating the mass shooting.
Officials took the last of those bodies from the scene — a street that typically attracts people looking for a drink, meal or unique gift — Sunday around sunrise, Rowe said.
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Despite witnessing such tragedy, the father of three also saw the resilience of not only the Oregon District, but the community as a whole.
Rowe, Fifth Street’s bearded mayor, frequently captures the Oregon District’s fun and quirky side with his digital camera and posts them on social media.
On Sunday, he posted a Facebook live video of thousands showing support and love for each other and the city during a vigil for those lost in the mass shooting.
“Overwhelmed to say the least,” he posted with video.
When the reporters from national news outlets have moved on to the next story and “thoughts and prayers” are being expressed for other American cities, Rowe and others said the Oregon District and Dayton’s spirit will live on.
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It won’t be easy, but they say the neighborhood is strong and steeped with spirit.
“I don’t want people to let the shooting define what the Oregon District is, and I don’t think they will,” said Rowe, a local history buff. “We’ve been through a lot of unavoidable disasters going back to the Dayton flood in 1913, and other avoidable disasters, which I think this one could have been. We are known for culture and history going back to the 19th century, and we are going to keep building upon that no matter what people do.”
Before being killed by police Sunday around 1 a.m., officials say Connor Betts killed one person in an alley next to Bob’s, then turned right onto East Fifth Street and opened fire on the crowd near Ned Peppers Bar on East Fifth Street.
One of Blind Bob’s cameras captured customers taking cover on the bar’s patio Sunday.
Other cameras around the neighborhood captured other scenes of terror.
Among the dead was as least one Bob’s regular, a bartender at the tavern said.
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Among the nearly 30 injured so badly that they required medical treatment was a server who recently started at the tavern.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with her medical expenses.
Many in the district known for its Victorian homes, bars, restaurants and eclectic shops say healing will not be easy.
“There is a lot of pain and trauma here that is not going to just go away by cleaning up what you see down here today. There are a lot of hurting people,” Shondale Atkinson of Serendipity Community Care at 411 E. Fifth St. said. “The remembrance of all the people who lost their lives here is going to be here for a long time; it will be here forever.”
Still, Atkinson and Denise Henton of Single Parents Rock, a parenting organization soon to share space with Serendipity, said the neighborhood can rebound.
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“There are a lot of people down here that are traumatized and those who were not down here, I just believe that they are nervous now to come down to the Oregon District,” Henton said. “I recommend counseling for those who were down here and also I recommend that individuals just lean on one another.”
Dayton resident Tracee Myra, a frequent Oregon District visitor, said it will take some time before he fully feels comfortable in the district.
“Some people didn’t make it home that morning and that is terrifying,” he said. “It definitely is raising awareness to be more careful. You don’t know who may jump out of a car with a gun.”
Guy Fragmin, the owner of 416 Diner at 416 E. Fifth St., said he and his staff heard the gunfire and saw the aftermath of the shooting.
One of the restaurant’s customers administered CPR to a victim.
“It was insane,” Fragmin, who fulfilled a dream he had since his teenage years when he opened his diner in 2017, said.
Still he says the district and Dayton will go on.
“We are going to make it through. We survived the tornadoes and the rally,” Fragmin said, referring to the 15 Memorial Day tornadoes to hit the Dayton area and the KKK rally that happened at Courthouse Square just days prior.
On the patio of his business, Toxic Brew Company, Shane Juhl on Monday spoke of the camaraderie found in the Oregon District, a neighborhood founded in 1829 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
That neighborhood spirit was expressed the morning after the Memorial Day tornadoes when Heart Mercantile co-owner Brittany Smith organized the crew from the Oregon District to help Trolley Stop owners Robin and Chris Sassenberg. The Sassenberg’s Dayton house was badly damaged in the tornadoes.
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Rowe said Smith was the friend he needed at Blind Bob’s Sunday, staying with him the entire time.
Juhl said Daytonians always help each other out.
“Basically it is a big family down here. Everybody knows each other,” he said.
The district will rebound, but the victims will not be forgotten, Juhl said.
“It will be a new normal,” he said. “(The shootings) will always be in the (community’s) thoughts, for years and years to come.”
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