2 years after tragedy, community discusses Oregon District memorial

Spaces for healing, celebration of life and reflection are a few of the ideas people have come up with for a permanent memorial for the Oregon District mass shooting.

Some people impacted by the tragedy have filled out surveys to share their thoughts about a memorial, and a small group of people attended a public forum at the Dayton Metro Library on Thursday to start discussions about a permanent installation.

This process is just beginning, organizers say, and there will be plenty of opportunities for community input.

“Something we all recognize is that memorials are very important,” said Sandy Hunt, co-chair of the 8/4 Memorial Committee. “We have to pay tribute to what happened that evening to remember the people, the victims, the survivors and the community.”

A couple of survivors and victims’ family members who spoke on Thursday said they aren’t sure what they would like the memorial to include and where it should go.

Susan Scherbauer, the aunt of victim Logan Turner, said what jumped to mind was a beautiful and peaceful space, maybe with different stations where visitors can learn about the nine people who were killed.

Or, she said, some stations could have words of healing and a place to sit and reflect.

Michael Turner, Logan’s father, said he liked a phrase his friend says to “keep the nine alive.”

Turner said he thinks some people evidently have moved on or are beginning to forget or lose interest in what happened, which he says was evidenced by the small turnout at Thursday’s forum.

He said maybe the memorial could have plaques with information about the victims that visitors can read to “keep them in their hearts.”

Part of the memorial also could have words of compassion and messages of peace, love and harmony, Turner said.

Another idea that was brought up was to have the memorial reflect the different stages of grieving and recovery.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Dion Green, whose father died in his arms in the Oregon District on Aug. 4, 2019, said he likes the idea of an educational component, possibly one that tries to help people who are grieving better understand what they are going through.

Green also said perhaps the memorial should not be located in the district because it could be an emotional or painful reminder to victims, survivors and other traumatized community members who visit the area.

Green said he’s taken steps to “reclaim” the district after the tragedy, and a memorial in the area could be a trauma trigger.

“Say I want to go out there and have a good time — I don’t want to see that,” he said.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Kyle Babirad, a member of the Oregon District Business Association, said he worries a memorial in the district might attract unwanted gawkers.

He said he’s already seen people visit the area to see or walk the path of the shooter, and “tragedy tourism” has been an issue in other communities that were the sites of mass murder.

But Jeremy Ganger, who was working as a bouncer at Ned Pepper’s that night who helped save lives, told this newspaper the memorial should be in the district, near where the tragedy happened.

“Putting the memorial down in the Oregon, in my opinion, shows that we still remember all nine at all times, no matter what day it is,” he said. “We should have something to look at to remember them every single day.”

Ganger said he thinks the memorial also would honor and support the many other people who were injured or traumatized and who keep coming out to the district.

He said a memorial in the area hopefully will bring people together and putting it somewhere else would detract from its meaning and purpose.

Apart from a memorial, Green, Babirad and Turner said they would like to see new programs or other kinds of work done in the community to try to prevent and reduce violence.

Hunt, committee co-chair who also is the division director of the Victim/Witness Division with the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office, said, “Whatever we come up with for a permanent memorial isn’t necessarily going to cure or fix any of the violence problems, but maybe just this platform can be a starting point to do more in our community.”

Hunt said she reached out to some victims and survivors who were not ready to discuss a memorial.

For some, it’s still too painful to talk about, she said, while others have made a lot of progress and don’t want to risk having a setback to their recovery by talking about things related to the tragedy.

Hunt said the Oregon District is a wonderful place and the community does not want it to only be known for this one horrible event.

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