It used to be that all the Miami Valley knew about mass shootings was what was in the news from other areas.
Then in the early morning hours on Sunday, Dayton became the news, after a gunman opened fire, killing nine and injuring dozens of others in less than 30 seconds before he was shot and killed by Dayton police.
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Activity is picking up in the Oregon District, especially in the one-block area around where the shooting occurred.
“I came out here this weekend because I was so afraid after this happened,” said Jamie Rippey, who said she was with friends in the Oregon District a couple hours before the shooting.
Oregon District one week after shooting
“You never expect anything like this to happen in your hometown. To me the Oregon District is the safest place to go,” she said. “When that happened I thought, ‘Oh my God, will I be able to come back down here?’ I just didn’t want to be so afraid of doing something I’ve always done, just to live.”
Testaments to the tragedy are inescapable. In addition to the memorials in front of Ned Peppers, nearly every business sign calls for solidarity and strength.
“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community. 8-4-19” reads the sign in front of Heart Mercantile.
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Down the street, Clash Consignments was nearly sold out of “Gem City” merchandise, all of the proceeds of which will be donated to help shooting victims.
Women were on the sidewalk dispensing free hugs. A church from Columbus drove down with dogs to give people comfort.
Many people along the street were from out of town. Ty Sullivan drove down from Columbus with her three children and niece to pay her respects.
“It’s just been weighing heavy on my mind since it happened,” she said. “I just felt a need to be in this area.”
For tonight, police say they will be extra-staffed in the Oregon District, but bars like Ned Peppers and the Toxic Brew Company say it will be business as usual.
“The vibe is just kind of what the street vibe always is,” said Tyler Gilcher, a Toxic Brew partner who said he’s seen an increased police presence. “I’m down here every day, so you notice when it’s beefed up a bit.”
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Dayton police Maj. Wendy Stiver said the department is expecting larger crowds this weekend.
“They’re all coming for a lot of different reasons and we’re going to be here to make them safe,” she said.
Gilcher said his business isn’t increasing security. “We don’t even have bouncers.”
But customers say they still feel safe.
“We are very encouraged by the police presence and it’s always been a happy and safe place to by,” Aley Knab of Xenia said of the Oregon District.
She was among those who visited the Oregon District Saturday afternoon, many buying “Dayton Strong” T-shirts or having lunch at one of the restaurants along Fifth Street.
“We wanted to come show our support after the events the other weekend and show the community you can’t be scared to come out here,” Abhi Kumar said.
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He and his girlfriend, Macey Maloney, had planned to go to a trivia night Tuesday in the Oregon District, but they agreed they didn’t feel comfortable coming so soon after Sunday morning’s tragedy.
“I was talking to my parents about it, I feel a little guilty about feeling the way I feel,” she said.
Annie Newbourn also make her first visit to the Oregon District since Sunday. She waited because she said she knew exactly what she would feel once she saw everything with her own eyes.
“I just knew I was be sad and I knew I would cry, and I did,” she said. “I just feel so bad that these people were just down here having a good time and hanging out and everything changed in less than a minute.”
All three said it feels different walking down in the Oregon District from what they remember feeling the last time they visited.
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“Everybody’s kind of turning heads, looking down, sad and it’s become kind of a thing to come look at now instead of just hanging out with friends and going to the bars, drinking, all that fun stuff,” Maloney said.
The mass shooting has not changed Gilcher’s level of concern.
“It doesn’t make me any more nervous of it happening again than I was before it happened,” he said.
A bartender at Ned Peppers said they will still be checking bags tonight, something it’s always done.