As scripture tells it, the devil himself unleashed horror upon horror on Job in the holy text that bears his name.
Loss of loved ones. Loss of health. Loss of property.
Tears after tears after tears. On and on it went.
Dion Green says he’s been likened to the Old Testament hero who was hammered by the prince of darkness with God’s permission. There’s a reason for the comparisons.
The year 2019, with its seemingly endless pileup of trauma and drama, has been cruel to Dayton. An FBI investigation. A water crisis. A KKK rally. Fifteen tornadoes. The worst mass shooting in Ohio’s history. A horrific crash that claimed two 6-year-old girls. A shooting in a Dayton garage that left teen boys dead. The killing of a beloved police detective.
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The year 2019 has been crushing to Dion, with whom I spoke for a recent episode of the “What Had Happened Was” podcast.
Like Job, he is only human.
Dion feared he, his 10-year-old daughter and girlfriend were going to die in their Northridge home the night the worst of the tornadoes sucked away their home’s roof and sent the family’s belongings flying blocks away.
Little did they know then that there was more pain on the horizon.
Just over two months later, on Aug. 4, Dion sobbed uncontrollably on Fifth Street as his father took his final breath.
He cradled the man who helped give him life and became a close friend when he became a man.
Mere seconds before, a 24-year-old Bellbrook man emerged from an alley near Blind Bob’s and Newcom’s and killed Derrick Fudge with a pistol modified to act like rifles used in war.
Within a few days, Fudge was supposed to paint his granddaughter’s bedroom — one of the many post-tornado projects at his son’s home. Instead, a white sheet covered his body. In little more than 30 seconds, Connor Betts killed Dion’s dad, Lois Oglesby, Saeed Saleh, Logan Turner, Nicholas Cumer, Thomas McNichols, Beatrice Warren-Curtis, Monica Brickhouse and Megan Betts, his own sister.
Dion says he holds no animosity — not even toward Betts’ family. He imagines the grief of burying two children.
“In order to heal, you have to forgive. You don’t have to forget. I don’t want to walk around angry,” he said. “That’s why the world is becoming what it is now. We need to show forgiveness and spread love back like how it used to be so everybody can get back together and we quit having these disasters that are ruining people’s lives.”
He only wishes Betts were alive to witness the pain he inflicted on families, and to hear about the bright lights his rage extinguished.
Dion, who works as a case manager at a homeless shelter, told me that like Job, he’s questioned God in the mind-numbing days that have passed.
Typically laid back, he now feels overwhelmed by guilt, sorrow and self-inflicted isolation. He’s escaped to a Houston hotel room to scream, think and write it out.
He doesn’t know if he can stand the holidays with family now that his dad and favorite Whist partner is dead.
The what-ifs are particularly loud when Dion is alone in his car. Unable to escape his own thoughts, he leans on the coping tools he’s learned in therapy. Turn the radio on. Count.
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Dion watched Betts walk down an alley leading to Fifth Street but thought it was a joke. “I feel I could have saved some lives if I’d thought it was a serious situation,” he told me.
He says his dad, girlfriend, sister and brother-in-law would not have been in the Oregon District that night if he hadn’t invited them.
“I don’t know what my blessing is in life to do, why he left me here and took my father,” Dion said.
With the help of a therapist, Dion says he is wrestling the emotions and acute post-traumatic stress that has led to weight loss, sleepless nights and tension in his household.
He has encountered more than his fair share of adversity during the year many Daytonians wish would just go away.
But Dion says he has found a new definition of forgiveness as he’s leaned on his faith.
The Bible says Job did that, too.
“I am making it through,” Dion said. “When I feel like I am leaning to the left, I make sure I call somebody to grab me and pull me back up.”
He wonders why so much sadness and strife has struck his family and his community in 2019. He does know he’s a new person, and that person wants to make a difference in the world.
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That person wants to connect people who can stand stronger together than they ever could on their own.
That person wants to tell people they can get through even the darkest nights.
That person wants the pain to stop and for those who need mental health help to get it.
Like most of us, he wonders why so many bad things have happened in 2019.
Like most of us, he hopes for unity, laughter and love in 2020.