Christina Huelsman of Oakwood was in Ned Pepper's during the mass shooting in Dayton's Oregon District. She fled the bar, losing the match to the shoe she is holding.

Oakwood graduate: ‘I never thought I’d be running for my life’

Many people lost their shoes during the Aug. 4 mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District. A local graduate explains why she lost hers and what she really left behind as she ran for her life. 

Christina Huelsman says it all seems like a “crazy nightmare,” but the bandage on her knee and the wound it conceals reminds her that is just wishful thinking. 

Then there is the single brown Birkenstock sandal in her parents’ Oakwood home. 

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Its match was lost when the recent Bowling Green University graduate fought her way through the crowd trying to escape Ned Peppers after a gunman sprayed the Oregon District with bullets from a .223-caliber rifle.

Before being shot and killed by police, that 24-year-old man killed nine women and men ranging from age 22 and 57. 

Dozens of others were injured as the confusion and chaos set in.

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Christina didn’t know the shooter’s whereabouts. 

As she lost track of her friends in the frenzy, she picked flee instead of freeze or fight. 

“I lost all sense of reality,” the 21-year-old said. “I just remember we were crawling. I was like diving over people because everyone was trampling each other. I had to like dive on concrete on the patio just to get out of there. I lost my shoe at some point. I could see a bunch of other people did, too.  As soon as I got outside, there were shoes everywhere. People were just running everywhere.” 

The rear of Ned Pepper's in the Oregon District. Several patrons lost their shoes as they fled the bar during the Oregon District mass shooting on August 4. The gunman was shot and killed by police before he made it into the bar.
Photo: Amelia Robinson

Christina said she ultimately escaped from inside the bar through a back door. Others jumped a fence. 

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A pile of shoes — dressy sandals, trainers and flip-flops  — decorated the parking lot behind the bar that attracts people looking to dance the night away. 

Shoes are piled outside the scene of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, in the city's Oregon District Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. Nine people were killed and more than two dozen injured in the attack early Sunday by an alleged 24-year-old man.
Photo: AP Photo/John Minchillo

Christina was at Ned’s that night with about five friends and ran into others as her group was waiting for another friend to finish her shift at nearby Oregon Express. 

“I remember everyone in the parking lot hiding behind cars,” she said. “You see it on TV every day, but  you never think it is going to happen. I never thought I’d be running for my life.” 

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The group was hanging near the middle of the bar when someone screamed, “Gun, real gun,” she said.  

“We heard and felt those shots going off,” Christina recalled. “You could feel that vibration.” 
Before the nightmare started, Christina and her friends were having a great night and were thinking about checking out another spot. 

Christina Huelsman with her dog Luda. Huelsman was in Ned Pepper's during the mass shooting in Dayton's Oregon District. She fled the bar, losing the match to the shoe she is holding.
Photo: Amelia Robinson

“We were all saying it (seemed) earlier than we thought it was,” she said. “The next moment, this all happened.”

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Ultimately, Christina spotted one of her friends and then the others. 

They were all safe. 

“I’ve never hugged anyone so tightly,” Christina recalled.  

The night marked Christina’s first time at the club and a scene she says has fundamentally changed her.

“A part of me is left there,” said Christina, who will soon start a job at Kohl’s corporate office in Milwaukee. “I don’t know when I will be able to go into a place like that and feel safe and comfortable.” 

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