Sunday events and visits seek to heal shooting wounds

Dayton marked Sunday - one week since a brutal mass shooting in the Oregon District - with prayers, special visits and other events in an attempt to heal from the deadly event.

Early Sunday around 1:15 a.m. the music was turned down and people in bars and along Fifth Street in the heart of the Oregon District paused for a moment of silence.

The moment came almost one week exactly after the mass shooting in which 10 people were killed, including the shooter, 24-year-old Connor Betts and his sister 22-year-old Megan Betts. Another 37 people were injured.

Sunday afternoon singer John Legend, who grew up John Stephens nearby in Springfield, visited and toured the entertainment district alongside Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley as part of a initiative to encourage patrons to visit the neighborhood.

“I just wanted to support Dayton and this area,” Legend said. “I grew up in Springfield. We were all struck by this tragedy.”

Legend held a short news conference in which he advocated for changes to the nation’s gun laws so events like last Sunday’s do not occur again. Later he was scheduled to perform briefly at the Oregon District tavern Blind Bob’s for an invited crowd of first responders and people affected by the shooting.

It was just one of many events that were held to mark the day.

Volunteers Sunday held a “Trauma Relief and Healing Workshop” at the Brightside venue in Dayton on East Third Street.

For four hours professionals in the healing arts provided guided meditations for groups and individuals. There were sessions devoted to yoga and pranic healing, massages and reiki. Organizations that provided services included Vegan Dayton, Heartfulness Dayton and Illuminate Dayton.

The idea for the free workshop sprang this week from co-organizers Libby Ballengee, owner of Venus Child Productions, and Anjali M. Brannon, of Beavercreek-based Ayurveda Natural Health Center. Following the Memorial Day tornadoes, Brannon held a similar workshop for survivors at her Beavercreek location, 1342 N. Fairfield Road. Ballengee said she contacted Brannon to see if the same could be done for the survivors of last weekend’s mass shooting in the Oregon District.

After the session, Brannon fought back tears as she described being “deeply affected” personally by the mass shooting in her native city, even though she didn’t directly know any of the victims. “It’s the first time in my life that I’ve had to think twice about going to a large festival,” she said. “If I’m deeply affected and I wasn’t downtown … I thought if I’m this way, I’m sure there’s a lot of other people out here that are this way. So I wanted to do something to help us all feel safer in our hometown again.”

A special service Sunday at the Sikh Society of Dayton temple focused on messages of hope, peace and solidarity.

Dr. Darshan Sehbi organized Sunday’s event, inviting people of all faiths to come together in prayer at the center, 2320 Harshman Road.

“We are here to mourn the senseless loss of life in the early hours of Sunday morning a week ago in the Oregon District in downtown Dayton,” Sehbi said. “With this tragedy our memories go back to August 2012 when a gunman entered the Sikh temple, we call it Gurdwara, in Oak Creek (Wisconsin) and killed six people.”

Dr. Pratibha Phadke-Gupta, a Hindu community member and founder of Optimal Health Consulting LLC, encouraged those in attendance to share good deeds because you don’t know when you will “take your last breath.”

“This is a sad moment for us to pray for all the victims who lost their lives without knowing that where we are going today and they will not be able to return,” he said. “It is so sad to see that they went there for entertainment for a happy life, but guess what happened … You never know when is your next time - when it’s going to take your last breath. Whatever we are today, at least we can share our good deeds with others. God has made everybody equal.”

Singer Lady Gaga also got involved Sunday. It was announced by the crowdfunding website Donors Choose that a foundation Gaga established had fully funded all Dayton-area school crowdfunding projects, along with projects from schools in Gilroy, Calif., and El Paso, Texas. All three communities were hit by mass shootings in the past two weeks.

According to the Donors Choose site, the requests Lady Gaga funded included a classroom table in Mad River schools, an area rug at a Clayton elementary, books at the Miami Valley Academies charter school, and a table and soft chairs at the Richard Allen charter school in Dayton. Some of those projects had already been partially funded via regular crowdfunding donors, and Gaga’s foundation covered the rest of the cost.

Many sought to use the weekend as a step toward healing.

More than 100 people gathered at the Holy Trinity Church on Saturday.

“Faith and community go hand-in-hand,” said the Rev. Angelo Anthony on Saturday when about 100 worshipers attended a special service at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, just a few blocks east of the shooting site. “Being on Fifth street since 1861 our parish church of Holy Trinity has served as a beacon of hope and light for the Dayton community in good times and in bad. It is in tragic times like this that we need to lean on one another and to pray for God’s healing love and wisdom to guide us through the darkness and into new life.”

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