Oregon District shooting: Gone but not forgotten two years after Dayton’s dark day

A sizable and at times tearful and emotional crowd gathered Wednesday evening in Dayton’s historic Oregon District to remember and celebrate the nine people who lost their lives in the mass shooting two years ago.

Survivors, victims’ loved ones and other community members visited the site of one of Ohio’s deadliest mass shootings on the second anniversary of the Aug. 4, 2019, tragedy, where they lit candles, prayed and paid tribute to the people who lost their lives that fateful night.

Wednesday’s event was the first time some survivors and family members had returned to the Oregon District since the shooting.

LaSandra James, the mother of victim Lois Oglesby, said she deliberately has avoided the East Fifth Street district even though she works downtown because she thought visiting the scene of the crime would be too hard and painful.

But James said Oglesby’s 9-year-old daughter, Hannah, really wanted to see the last place her mother was alive, and she had so many questions about what happened that night and her mother’s final moments.

“Her daughter wanted to be here,” James said. “She’s not been here before, and she wanted to come down and show our support.”

The attack in the Oregon District two years ago was among the worst mass shootings in state history, and in just 32 seconds, a gunman killed nine people and wounded and traumatized many others.

Dayton that day joined the grim and sadly growing fraternity of cities that have been terrorized by mass shootings ― places like Newtown, Connecticut; Las Vegas, Nevada; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; El Paso, Texas; and Aurora and Columbine, Colorado.

The “Keeping the 9 Alive” commemorative event was held on the street near Blind Bob’s and Ned Pepper’s. It was organized by Dion Green, whose father died in his arms after being shot multiple times.

Green said he hoped the event would be uplifting and he wanted to honor the memories of his father, Derrick Fudge, and the eight other victims: Logan Turner, Beatrice Nicole Warren-Curtis, Lois Oglesby, Thomas “TeeJay” McNichols, Nicholas Cumer, Monica Brickhouse, Megan Betts and Saeed Saleh.

Green said this has been an extremely emotional week.

“It’s been rough ― I haven’t been sleeping, I haven’t been doing anything,” he said. “The anniversary symptoms are definitely back, and are at an all-time high.”

He said he’s been shaking during interviews, which is new and unwelcome. But other people were shaky too.

Green hugged and comforted a man he remembered seeing that night who was sobbing and trembling.

Until Wednesday, the man hadn’t been back to the Oregon District since the tragedy. He struggled to talk and showed profound emotion.

Green said he loved visiting the Oregon District before the shooting and one terrible event will not ruin it for him forever.

“I am going to reclaim it and I have people around me ― I have my sister around me, I have my family around me, I have friends around me ― we reclaim this,” he said. “This is ours. The devil cannot win. He will not win.”

Although speakers and visitors made some upbeat and hopeful remarks, some visitors fought back tears at various times, such as when the names of the victims were read and chanted.

Oglesby’s sister and some of her family members broke into sobs during a musical performance.

James said it felt a little surreal being in the Oregon District, but her family members want to be able to answer her granddaughter’s questions about her mother.

“She wants to see, she wants to know why did this happen ― she wasn’t doing anything, that’s all she kept saying,” she said. “She wants answers.”

She said Hannah’s mother is gone forever, and the loss is like “peeling back an onion” ― there are so many layers, and this is long-term.

James said she is glad to see the community come together to grieve together. She said the pandemic last year didn’t allow that to happen.

“I don’t know if this will be therapeutic for her, but I don’t want to shy away from it if she has questions,” she said. “But it’s hard to be honest when your mother was involved in something so traumatic.”

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