A crowd of strangers, drawn together by tragedy, attended a vigil at the Levitt Pavilion Sunday, just 12 hours after nine people were killed in the Oregon District.
Amid the prayers and the songs at the hour-long gathering, gestures of kindness and compassion rippled through the crowd.
Long embraces, words of encouragement and small gestures touched the hearts of so many in their time of need.
>> LATEST UPDATES: What you need to know today
This was the first of many vigils that brought the community together to begin the process of healing.
Bearing witness to these acts of love was another reminder of the true strength of our community and how fortunate I am to be part of it.
Experience these moments that demonstrate why we are #DaytonStrong.
Lindsey and Terry Posey of Miami Twp. just wanted to do something, so on their way to the Levitt Pavilion they stocked up with supplies. The couple made their way through the crowd handing out long-stemmed white roses, packs of tissues, mints and water to anyone who needed them. “It’s all we knew we could do,” Lindsey Posey said.
Symbols of peace
Thomas Jones of Trotwood and his son Joel, 14, carried a small pet carrier to the Levitt Pavilion. Jones placed it on the lawn, opened the door, and one by one nine white pigeons — “for the nine lives lost” — flew into the air. The flock made a sweeping circle above the city as the crowd watched their flashing white wings against the blue sky.
Messages of love
A Muslim family with Little Hearts Early Learning Academy in Riverside stood out among the hundreds gathered. They wore bright green shirts, and the young boys had matching caps. The hand-made signs they held broadcast messages of love to support for the community. “We love our city,” “Thank you Dayton Police & All Responders,” and “Please pray for our city.” “I’ve never imagined it would be so close to home,” Fatima Osama said. “We don’t want to get used to this. We don’t want this to be a normality.”
No one is alone
Brittany Mitchell of Dayton lost someone close to her Sunday. When asked who, she couldn’t get the words out. As tears streamed down her face she stood in the strong embrace of Celeste Pickett of Dayton. The two women had never met before. “She was standing by herself crying,” Pickett said. “You never leave anyone alone.”
A stranger’s tribute
Tammy and Chad Duff of Centerville and their daughter, MacKenzie, 13, were crossing Main and Fifth streets when a car pulled up at the intersection. The stranger inside told them she was unable to attend the gathering, but could they take something. Through the window she passed a floral wreath to them, the greenery decorated with carnations, roses and baby’s breath. The family placed the wreath at the foot of the pavilion stage.