Neither Jennifer’s daughter nor her daughter’s friend were hit by bullets the night a gunman opened fire on the Oregon District.
But the trauma of Aug. 4 has lingered.
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Images captured by a Ring doorbell camera of Jennifer’s girl being bear-hugged by that friend in an Oregon District doorway have been seen around the nation.
There is no sound on the black-and-white, 90-second video, but you can sense the terror the young women felt as they cowered.
Moments before, Jennifer’s daughter stood frozen at the end of the line to get into Ned Peppers. Shots that at first sounded like fireworks rang out around her.
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Bloody bodies fell as chaos sunk in.
“Her friend pulled her into a doorway,” Jennifer said. “You probably saw the Ring video. It was one of the first ones released. The way she told it to me, her friend saved her life.”
Surrounded by carnage, Jennifer’s daughter called her in a panic on what was supposed to be just another random summer night.
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“She was hysterical. It didn’t even sound like her. It was a strange voice,” Jennifer told me. “All I could make out is ‘they are trying to kill us.’ I thought they had gotten abducted.”
Jennifer rushed to the scene and eventually found her daughter and her daughter’s friend, a student at a Dayton-area college.
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The young women had raced to the end of Fifth Street near Smokin Bar-B-Que. Accounts of what they saw on the way differed.
Jennifer’s daughter described seeing pools of blood, holes in a man’s chest, dead bodies on the ground, survivors throwing up.
Her friend was convinced it wasn’t nearly that bad.
“(The friend) said, ‘No one died. They were shot in the leg,” Jennifer recalled.
With the new morning, the reality set in.
A 24-year-old Bellbrook man Connor Betts killed nine — Logan Turner, Nicholas Cumer, Thomas McNichols, Beatrice Warren-Curtis, Monica Brickhouse, Megan Betts, Derrick Fudge, Lois Oglesby and Saeed Saleh — with a pistol modified to act like a rifle.
“It would be very hard for me to listen to anyone who says we need rapid-fire guns,” she told me. “Until it is their daughter that goes through this or their son.”
Dozens were injured. The gunman was killed by police.
Jennifer rushed to the scene, seeing police doing the same on the way. She got her daughter and the friend to safety, but says the nightmare didn’t end there.
Her daughter could not eat and when she slept, she woke up every few hours in a cold sweat.
Back at college since last Monday, Jennifer says her daughter recently had a panic attack after a night out with friends.
Jennifer fears the nightmare won’t end soon for her daughter or the hundreds of others there that night.
Jennifer says she felt the effects.
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“I think my trauma was hearing her voice on the phone, and I kept thinking about that, but I was able to go get her and take her to a counselor,” Jennifer said. “We’ve gotten a lot of support for her. There are a lot of these young adults who don’t have parents involved.”
Manicka Thomas, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, said many, many, many local residents have been impacted by the mass shootings.
Some were there on Aug. 4. Some saw social media videos of the dead or injured on the street. Others simply learned about the mass shooting.
“We kind of watch things like this on TV, but for it to happen in our own backyard, in a popular place…” Thomas said. “That creates an ‘I am not safe anywhere’ (thought).”
Thomas said some people may become withdrawn and reluctant to go to a place they went before without a second thought.
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“Every place is a danger,” Thomas said.
Thomas calls on Dayton to create safe spaces where people can feel supported.
Recovery is possible, she says.
“A lot of times we run from it, not knowing we have the ability to get through it,” Thomas told me.
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Jennifer calls for patience and kindness.
“You have to have a plan for recovery,” Jennifer said. “If you don’t get it, it is like letting someone bleed all over the place or letting the infection set in.”
She said mental injuries like the one her daughter suffered cannot be seen with the naked eye, but they are very real.
Jennifer said she didn’t really understand how real before Aug. 4.
Then it happened to her girl.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amelia Robinson is a reporter, columnist and podcaster for the Dayton Daily News and Dayton.com. Amelia is an Oregon District resident who has been covering the Dayton community for 20 years. She covers topics including dining, nightlife, entertainment and the people, places and things that make Dayton a great place to live, work and play. She is the host of the National Association of Broadcasters Marconi award-nominated podcast “What Had Happened Was …” about the people and places of Dayton. She has been the author of the Smart Mouth column for the Dayton Daily News for 15 years. The column, which appears in Sunday’s Dayton Daily News Life & Arts section, was recognized as the best newspaper column in Ohio this year. Amelia appears on WHIO Radio’s “Miami Valley Morning News” every Friday and “Miami Valley Happenings with Jason Michaels” every Sunday. Amelia is also president and a founding member of the Greater Dayton Association of Black Journalists. She also serves on the boards of the Dayton Sister City Committee and Oregon Historic District Society.