A year after shooting, ‘‘you’re the Dayton Strong thing they’re talking about,’ Heart co-owner says

EDITOR'S NOTE: This guest column by Heart co-owner Brittany Smith appeared on the Dayton Daily News' Ideas and Voices page on Tuesday, Aug. 4. The business is located in Dayton's historic Oregon District, the site of the worst mass shooting in Ohio's history.

Warning: today is the anniversary of one of the worst days for many of us in the Oregon District.

Dayton has had a rough go of things, and still is.

Thanks to the pandemic, many local businesses have closed permanently and the ones that remain- my own included - are barely scraping by financially and emotionally.

Like so many people across the world right now, we are all trying to adapt to ever-changing rules and new information, all while attempting to keep our entrepreneurial dreams and livelihood going.

Oh, and not get sick.

We are a hopeful bunch of folks, but it ain’t easy.

Credit: Carly Short

Credit: Carly Short

Collectively, we hardly had time to process the tragedy of August 4, with most Oregon District employees having to work right through their grief and tears in the same spot where everything happened amid the overwhelming presence of national media camped out on our doorsteps mere hours after blood stained our beloved street.

Hours after so many witnessed senseless loss of life, ran for their lives, dashed for cover, rushed to save others, frantically checked on their friends and loved ones, heard gunshots ring out while having a beer, watched six heroic police officers stop a situation that could have even been much, much worse.

It is still hard to process that such a thing happened in little more than 30 seconds.

So many lives were lost in those few seconds. So many lives forever changed.

We ain’t over it. We won’t ever be.

I don’t think a day has gone by in which I personally haven’t at some point flashed back to that night.

Grief, healing, and PTSD are interesting things, and timelines vary for all.

I don’t know if it ever completely goes away, or if you just eventually learn to live with it. Survivor’s guilt. Guilt for not being there. Nightmares from being there. Feelings of failure in not being able to save someone. Images of the night you can’t ever unsee, permanently embedded into your brain. Panic attacks. Jumping at sudden loud noises, or being startled by someone running up behind you.

Loathing the fireworks that have been popping off all year long. Wondering if that person over there who isn’t quite acting right could be capable of the same atrocities.

Being hyper-vigilant about always having clear sight and access to exits. Being reminded every time you see where a bullet pierced a building or door, or the horrible candle wax that now permanently adorns the sidewalks.

I can’t speak for all because pain and grief are very personal, but many dear friends and neighbors are still not okay.

It’s okay to not be okay.

If people want to talk to the press or anyone else, great.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with anyone who wants to share their story.

That’s a part of healing as well for many and talking about things that are hard to talk about helps lots of people overcome.

Tell your story.

Speak about the heroic acts of others and the strength of the community. Talk about your emotions and experiences, if you’re comfortable doing so.

If you’re the one asking, don’t be a jerk about it.

For all of our friends, neighbors, and everyone out there still coping with this or anything else that’s difficult and wearing heavy on your heart: we see you.

We are proud of you.

There’s no weakness in how you’re coping, and you’re definitely not alone.

You’re the Dayton Strong thing they’re talking about.

Ideas and Voices runs daily in the Dayton Daily News. Send comments and suggestions to edletter@coxinc.com or contact Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson at arobinson@DaytonDailyNews.com.

Posted by Amelia Robinson on Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Brittany Smith co-owns LUNA Gifts & Botanicals, Heart Mercantile and beck + call. Each business is located in the Oregon District.

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