Dion Green is not looking forward to reading or watching the news this long holiday weekend.
There will be countless reminders of the worst summer of his life.
But the 37-year-old dad will be watching the sky.
“If it gets cloudy around 8 or 9 o’clock, I am on the highway heading I don’t know which way,” he said. “That’s how it started last time.”
Monday, May 25, will roughly mark a year since an EF-4 tornado sucked the roof from over his family's heads.
A few weeks after the Dayton area’s 15 Memorial Day 2019 tornadoes, Dion’s dad, Derrick Fudge of Springfield, died in his arms, a casualty of a 24-year-old Bellbrook man’s undeclared war on the Oregon District.
The year ended with Dion taking leave from his job at St. Vincent De Paul following what he called a breakdown at work.
The stress of working with the homeless, some of whom were mentally ill, while coping with the trauma of back-to-back gut punches was just too great, the Northridge resident said.
He decided not to go back to the job in February.
“I started to get my routine back,” Dion said. “I just told God this: I am going to take off and work for him.”
Dion, who has been diagnosed with PTSD, says he took the time to exercise and focus on his next steps, which include developing Flourishing Under Distress Given Encouragement (Fudge), a nonprofit named for his dad.
“I am scared I’ve never done a nonprofit, but I am ready for the challenge,” Dion said.
The Springfield native said the nonprofit will connect survivors of a variety of trauma to services and offer encouragement.
It will help people “reclaim their lives,” he said. “We are all the victims of something. It is just holding their hands and guiding them through the process.”
Dion said therapy is helping him and is why he first began to write.
Dion has also written a book based on his experiences, which included being incarcerated on a drug offense early in his life to surviving the Aug. 4 Oregon District mass shooting.
In the short, self-published book, “Untitled: Act of God/Act of Man” ($16.95, WestBow Press), Dion says he shares how he learned to forgive and kept his faith after continued adversity.
The book’s cover includes photos of a damaged house taken in Dion’s neighborhood after the tornadoes roared through the Miami Valley on Memorial Day 2019 as well as the now iconic “Dayton Strong” sign hung outside of Ned Pepper’s following the Oregon District mass shooting.
On that day, Connor Betts killed nine — Fudge, Logan Turner, Nicholas Cumer, Thomas McNichols, Beatrice Warren-Curtis, Monica Brickhouse, Megan Betts, Lois Oglesby and Saeed Saleh — with a pistol modified to act like a rifle before being killed by police.
No clear motivation has been revealed.
Dion said he holds no animosity toward Betts’ family.
“It is not my fault, but I can still forgive,” he said. “At the end of the day, it weighs down on you. You get clouded. You don’t want to move ahead, you want to give even.”
Due to the coronavirus, Dion said he has mostly stayed at home, where he is working on a second book. He has been working in his yard and homeschooling his 11-year-old daughter, Niara, whom he shares with fiancé Donita Cosey.
Life has not been without its bumps.
Planning for a walk and event he was helping organize at the Levitt Pavilion to mark the mass shooting’s anniversary has been halted.
Still, Dion said life continues to move.
Donita, Dion’s sister and brother-in-law Megan and Jody Duncan, were celebrating with Dion and his father the night of the shooting.
Megan and Jody recently welcomed a baby, Dion’s nephew J’Shon Derrick Duncan, whom he has not been able to see yet due to the coronavirus.
The baby was partly named for Derrick Fudge, which touched many in the family, Dion said.
He said he is grateful for the many people he has met since the tornado and mass shooting and to be able to share his story.
Foresight can be gained from knowing that other people suffered and survived, Dion said.
“Whatever I can do to help out and give back and help others, I am all for it,” he said. “I can’t make the story less or better than it was. I can only tell you what it was.”
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