Please let yourself off the hook.
Maybe you were there Aug. 4 just after 1 a.m.
Maybe he walked right past you.
Maybe he was within arm’s reach as he exited the alley wearing a mask, bulletproof vest and hearing protection.
But no, you could not have tackled him, punched him in the jaw or taken a bullet meant for someone else.
Perhaps you were supposed to be there for one reason or another.
There was nothing you could have done and no, you don’t deserve the guilt you’ve been carrying around for months.
What could you have done?
It took six good guys with guns to end Connor Betts’ rampage.
The best thing that could have happened in such a despicable situation happened.
These trained and government-sanctioned professionals fired two dozen bullets into him.
It happened so fast — 32 seconds — and caused so much pain.
One gunman dead.
More than 40 injured seriously enough to require medical treatment.
Another American community inflicted with wounds that do not require stitches but are too raw to properly heal.
Dayton police did the best they could that night in our Oregon District.
So did the first responders.
So did you. You survived. You walk among us.
I am glad you are here. I hate that a piece of you may have died that night.
I hate that you suffer from the thoughts of actions not taken or your life spared when others were taken.
Perhaps you helped someone who was injured.
Perhaps your feet couldn’t move or you sobbed on the sidewalk as the light went out of eyes around you.
It doesn’t matter.
The guilt is not yours to carry.
It is ours.
I am telling you with all my soul that you could not have done anything more than you did that night.
Surely we — a nation of some 327 million souls — could have done something to stop him before that night.
But unlike you, the collective we sleeps well at night.
We don’t fret about the could-haves or the should-haves — at least our inaction indicates as much.
We may hope that something should be done, but we are not foolish enough to hold our breath waiting for it.
We’d surely black out during the wait — during the thoughts, the prayers, the proposed changes snagged in the political weeds.
Rinse, weep and repeat in another town.
I wish my plea was enough to convince you to let yourself off the hook, but I know my words are not enough.
They are as inadequate as the systems we have in place to address gun violence in our country.
This much is true: There is nothing you could have done, but yeah, there is something we can do.
Let’s see if we do.
But please don’t hold your breath.
>> AMELIA ROBINSON’S SMART MOUTH COLUMN: Read past columns from the Dayton Daily News
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