A promotional clip featuring the first 45 seconds of the University of Dayton media production students' short documentary "Dayton's Darkest Summer: The Rise from Tragedy."

University of Dayton students release 'Dayton Darkest Summer' documentary

The touching 15-minute film reflects upon how the city is recovering from the dual tragedies of last summer: the string of Memorial Day tornadoes and the Oregon District mass shooting. The students interviewed survivors, witnesses and victims, to document and share their stories and grief.

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Photo: Contributed

The project started as an assignment to media production students from their teachers Gregory Kennedy, UD’s Media Specialist-in-Residence, and Roy Flynn, a full-time Communications faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences. One of the students assigned to this project was senior (and now graduate) Ian Evans.  

The media production students were assigned different roles, from writing and editing, to cinematography and visual effects. Evans was tasked with the “nerve wracking” role of head writer and narrator of the film. Although telling this huge story in a short time frame was initially an overwhelming task, Evans says he and the entire production team hit the ground running.  

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Both the tornadoes and mass shooting are individually compelling local stories, but because they occurred within weeks of each other, they are bound together in our collective memories. “What made it challenging was that we were really telling two stories at once,” Evans explained. 

Evans and his fellow students learned a lot about Dayton, as well as the nature of resiliency, on an individual and collective level. “Each person has their own story,” Evans said of the film-making process. “Tragedies change people, and healing is a process. It looks a lot different for each person.”  

Photo: Contributed

The students wanted to emphasize the second part of the film’s title, “the rise from tragedy” and show how Dayton has overcome so many challenges. 

“So many people remember Sandy Hook as the city that survived a mass shooting,” Evans said. “We don’t want people to think Dayton is just known for the tornadoes and shooting from 2019. Our class wanted to show that we are much more than that.”

“We’ve overcome a lot,” Evans continued. “We are a city of resilience. A better future lies ahead if you keep going. Dayton as a city personifies that. We can get through this together.” 


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