OREGON DISTRICT – At 1:05 a.m. Sunday, the thumping music and laughter inside Ned Peppers paused to honor the fallen, the injured and the families affected by the Oregon District shooting one week before.
Some patrons cast their eyes downward. Others raised their drinks in the air. After a few seconds, the song “We are Family” was greeted by cheers. Dancing resumed.
The hour and minute marked exactly one week since a man opened fire in the street outside the bar in a 30-second rampage that ended with the gunman shot dead by police outside the Oregon District’s bar’s front door. The gunman killed nine people and wounded dozens in a mass shooting that caught the nation’s attention.
MORE: 30 seconds of terror: How the Oregon District mass shooting unfolded
The mix of somber reflection and typical-Saturday-night revelry inside Ned Peppers was seen across the Oregon District that night.
Ned Peppers and other bars were modestly busy, not bustling. People drank and danced and laughed.
But testaments to the tragedy were inescapable. In front of Ned Peppers, flowers lay in a heap beneath a banner proclaiming “Dayton Strong.” Crosses bearing the names of the nine killed were lined up in front of Hole in the Wall. Flowers placed days ago in bullet holes left in buildings started to wilt.
MORE: Archdeacon: ‘He’s gone too soon. This didn’t need to happen’
MORE: Remembering the 9 victims of the Oregon District shootings
In addition to these memorials, nearly every business sidewalk sign called for solidarity and strength.
“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community. 8-4-19” read the sign in front of Heart Mercantile.
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.
MORE: Normal to feel stressed following Dayton shootings, say health professionals
Many people along the street were from out of town. Ty Sullivan drove all the way 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.”
Many people had personal reasons for being downtown that night.
Jonathan Hall spoke briefly and privately to a portrait of Lois Oglesby hung along with photos in a store window of others slain that night. He recalled Oglesby, his cousin, fondly as a “real mother.”
MORE: Dayton Daily News, WHIO sue school district to get shooter’s records
Hall predicted he would never again be able to come to the Oregon District to unwind.
“I told myself I would never walk down this street again,” he said. “When you lose somebody in the same place you go for entertainment, that’s hard.”
Funeral services were held Saturday for six of the nine victims killed.
But many in the district Saturday night – especially those working there, many of whom saw the carnage first-hand – said what is needed most is a return to at least a new normal. If people stay away, their livelihoods are at risk after everything else they’ve been through.
MORE: Boy’s idea to help shooting victims’ families leads to lemonade stand
“We just want a return to normalcy,” said Ned Peppers General Manager Austin Smith. “We just want to come back to work.”
This is why Josh Stepp and Nick Guthrie came downtown. They sat Saturday night on the lively patio of Toxic Brew Company.
“Just everything that this city has been through the last few months with the (Ku Klux Klan) rallies, the tornadoes, and obviously what happened last weekend, you know I just think it’s important to be down here and show support,” Stepp said.
PHOTOS: Dayton Police honored by the Oregon District and city residents
Jamie Rippey, who said she was with friends in the Oregon District a couple hours before the shooting, said: “I came out here this weekend because I was so afraid after this happened.”
“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, to just live.”