Mike Turner’s pride and joy was shot three times in the back as he stood on the sidewalk outside one of his favorite bars.
Two women — complete strangers who just happened to be there — tried to stop the light from going out of 30-year-old Logan Turner’s life.
Mike Turner’s best friend — his only child, his skin in life’s game — died along with eight others during the mass shooting Aug. 4 in the heart of this Gem of a city.
Logan never ate the cake his grandma baked for his birthday party that day.
He’ll never again hug his dad and try to jab him in the ribs.
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He’d never marry the woman he told Mike was the one.
The tree the couple bought together will not grow in front of the bigger house Logan told his dad he wanted to get some day.
Logan can’t return the text Dad still sends him daily, but Mike says he still hears from his beloved.
He’s felt Logan’s hugs and heard his words during his darkest moments since the shooting.
“Be good. Calm down. Be safe,” Mike told me his son tells him. “I believe he’s up there, directing me to be calm and try to help.”
Like his son, Mike says he is a “Second Amendment guy.” Still, he agrees with much of what Gov. Mike DeWine proposes to fight gun violence and address mental health issues.
But Mike says “politics” often lead to anger and away from the love and conversations clearly needed to unite American hearts that have drifted apart.
“Everybody’s allowed to have their views, but the one view I want everybody to have is love,” he said during a chat for my podcast, “What Had Happened Was.”
“Let’s just love each other,” he said.
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Since the shooting, Mike has spent chunks of his life giving out the hugs he can no longer give to his Logan. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound retired car salesman has wrapped his long arms around hundreds and hundreds of backs. Hearts to his heart.
Folks lined up to hug Mike at the Gem City Shine, the bash hosted by Dave Chappelle in the Oregon District a few weeks ago. Mike writes #LoganHugs on napkins in restaurants.
I am not a hugger, and told Mike as much during our talk. Sometime during my teenage years, I rebelled against the intimacy of the simple expression that joins human to human. Couldn’t really tell you why.
Out of instinct, I was reluctant when Mike hugged me in the lobby of my office before our talk. But genuine love passed through the hug.
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The power of a hug was clear in the hours and days after the mass shooting knocked us down. People embraced and mourned together. A few seconds of human to human, soul to soul, heart to heart.
You are not alone.
You are loved.
We need you.
Mike had skin in the game and that skin was lost, but he says he has too much to do to let hate or anger rule. “I’m trying to be a better man by showing people that you can still be with God. You can still show a smile,” he said.
Logan was the kind of guy who would have tried to get through to Connor Betts, Mike said.
“This kid had to hate so bad,” Mike said of the shooter. “If someone would have grabbed him and hugged him, maybe it would have changed his mind. Maybe it would have given him hope for a better life. Maybe he would have sat down and said, ‘You know what, someone does love me.’”
Mike said the nation can not afford to ignore the mass-shooting epidemic. There is far too much valuable skin in the game.
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But through travels between Dayton and where he now lives in Tennessee, he knows that many have already forgotten his son and eight others who died in the Oregon District.
People forgot about Jessica Rekos, Olivia Engel, Avielle Richman, Jesse Lewis, Grace Audrey McDonnell, Ana Marquez-Greene and the 14 other 6- and 7-year-olds killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
A dad with a hole in his heart is offering hugs and a hashtag as a reminder.