If was the perfect summer night that Dayton needed after chaos and sorrow blew into town with the 15 tornadoes that assaulted us on Memorial Day.
All that changed in little more than 30 seconds.
Dayton has not been the same since that day six months ago when one of our own — a 24-year-old from Bellbrook — used a weapon meant for war to kill nine people, injure at least 40 and scar the community.
The Miami Valley continues to process and heal from the horrors of Aug. 4, 2019.
Signs of the city’s strength, resilience and determination to “do something” about gun violence pepper the streets of the Oregon Historic District, the sight of the worst mass shooting in Ohio history.
Nine lives were stolen before the threat was eliminated when six officers fatally shot Connor Betts.
The nation turned its attention away from Dayton and the pain his actions caused, but we have not forgotten the souls we lost and those they left behind.
— Monica Brickhouse, 39, of Springfield. The Anthem employee was survived by a list of family members that includes her husband Anthony Brickhouse and children Anthony G. Brickhouse, Kevon Brickhouse and Sanaa Brickhouse.
— Beatrice Warren-Curtis, 36, had traveled from Virginia to Dayton to visit Brickhouse, her friend and Anthem Insurance co-worker.
— Nicholas Cumer, 25, was finishing up his internship at Maple Tree Cancer Alliance in Dayton.
— Logan Turner, 30 of Springboro. The Thaler Machine Co. machinist had planned to celebrate his birthday with family members later on the Sunday he was killed. His father, Mike Turner, launched #LoganHugs in his honor.
—Thomas J. McNichols, 25 of Dayton. Known to all as TeeJay, the factory worker was a father of four and a “gentle giant.”
— Lois Oglesby, 27, of Vandalia. The travel-lover known as “Lola” and “Nae” by some is survived by a list of relatives that include her partner Darryl Lee, and daughters, Hannah Ann Marie Oglesby and Reign Lola Dior Lee, who was just 8 months old when her mother was killed.
— Saeed Saleh, 38, came to America three years before his death with the help of the Catholic Social Services Resettlement Program. The father had fled Eritrea, the small East African nation that Amnesty International says is one of the most repressive countries in the world.
— Megan Betts, 22, a Bellbrook graduate and Wright State student about to earn a degree. She was the younger sister of the gunman.
Today, we reflect on a community’s strength in its darkest hour and the people we will never forget.
Here are the stories of some of the people who have touched our hearts in the hours, days, weeks and months following the tragic shooting.
1. ‘Dayton’s Protector’ a true hometown hero
When 24-year-old Connor Betts began his rampage in the Oregon District, just a few yards across the street from Ned Peppers, panic ensued and people began screaming and running in all directions. Jeremy Ganger, a bouncer for Ned Peppers working the door that night, immediately jumped into action. He began ushering and sometimes shoving people though the bar’s front door to get them out of the line of fire. And when frightened people inside tried to run back out, he slammed them down to keep them safe.
When he saw the gunman approaching the bar, Ganger stationed himself in the doorway to protect the hundreds of people inside.
Police shot the gunman, and Ganger wrestled the gun away.
>> READ MORE: ‘Not all heroes wear capes’
2. Grieving dad teaches us the power of a hug
Mike Turner’s heart was shattered on Aug. 4 when he lost his only child during the Dayton mass shooting.
Through his pain, he still wants to spread love.
He said he’s felt Logan’s hugs and heard his words during his darkest moments since the shooting.
Since the shooting, Mike has spent chunks of his life giving out the hugs he no longer can 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.
“Let’s just love each other,” he said. “I’m trying to be a better man by showing people that you can still be with God. You can still show a smile.”
3. Victim’s son inspires with his faith and spirit of forgiveness
The year 2019 has been crushing to Dion Green.
He 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 Dion know at the time the night of the tornadoes was only the beginning.
Just over two months later, on Aug. 4, Dion sobbed uncontrollably on Fifth Street as his father, Derrick Fudge, took his final breath. He cradled the man who helped give him life and became a close friend when he became a man.
Yet Dion holds no animosity.
“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.”
>> READ MORE: Faith and forgiveness in a year overflowing with grief
4. Bar staff did exactly what they were trained to do and saved lives
The general manager of two Dayton bars thrown into the national spotlight following the Aug. 4 mass shooting told us days after the tragedy that his staff was prepared for the worst, and took action.
Austin Smith, the general manager of Ned Peppers and the Hole in the Wall, said his team — including bouncer Jeremy Ganger — acted heroically when the unimaginable happened.
“The smoke hasn’t cleared, and they are rushing outside to help people,” he said. “It would be easy to run and hide.”
Bartenders and bouncers used T-shirts, bar rags and bags as makeshift tourniquets. They applied pressure to gunshot wounds to help control the bleeding.
His team had received emergency training from Dayton police and did exactly what they were supposed to do.
“Forty people did exactly what we talked about,” he said.
5. Oregon District shows its strength and resilience
The Oregon District’s unofficial mayor saw things he never thought he would the hours following a shooting in the heart of the entertainment district.
Despite witnessing such tragedy, the manager of Blind Bob’s also saw hope, strength and resilience.
“I don’t want people to let the shooting define what the Oregon District is, and I don’t think they will,” said Rowe, a local history buff. “We’ve been through a lot of unavoidable disasters going back to the Dayton flood in 1913, and other avoidable disasters, which I think this one could have been. We are known for culture and history going back to the 19th century, and we are going to keep building upon that no matter what people do.”
>> READ MORE: ‘We are going to make it through’
6. A legend surprises Dayton, calls for change
Exactly one week after tragedy, a celebrity with roots in this region surprised some of his fans when they needed him the most.
“You have no choice; you have to keep going,” Springfield native and entertainer John Legend said during a tour of the Oregon District.
Legend purchased clothing for his children with TV host Chrissy Teigen at Heart and beck + call and looked at hats at Brim before having dinner at Corner Kitchen and giving a private show at Blind Bob’s.
He also advocated for reform.
“Continue to support each other and be as loving and caring as we can with each other, and then I think we have to vote as if our lives depended on it because they really do. We need to vote for politicians that will support gun safety measures.”
7. Dayton shines through the pain
The stars came out to shine for Dayton just weeks after the mass shooting to help the community heal and “reclaim” the Oregon District.
Dave Chappelle, who calls Yellow Springs home, rounded up some of his famous friends and some 20,000 people in Dayton for an unforgettable night in the streets of the Oregon District on Aug. 25.
Music icon Stevie Wonder was the headliner of the event. Also performing was Grammy winner Chance the Rapper, Talib Kweli, Teyana Taylor, and Thundercat. Jon Stewart also made an appearance.
“The best way we can honor our fallen is by getting up better than we were before,” Chappelle told the crowd. “We won’t let those people die in vain.”
8) Friend describes the ongoing trauma
Four months after Lois Oglesby died in her arms in the Oregon District, Brittnie Hollingsworth described the post-traumatic stress that haunts her and the love Oglesby had for her children.
Eight-year-old Ryleigh Manuel and her mother, Kelly Watts, lost nearly everything when the worst of the 15 Memorial Day tornadoes hit their Trotwood home.
Ryleigh had to be strong for her mom and again when she learned that Thomas McNichols, a much-loved custodian at her former school, was among those killed during the mass shooting Aug. 4 in the Oregon District.
The spunky kid represented hours before Gem City Shine hosted by Yellow Springs-based comedian Dave Chappelle began.
The beads in Ryleigh’s braided hair swayed as she rocked with rapper Kanye West at his Aug. 26 Sunday service at Riverscape MetroPark in support of those impacted by the mass shooting.
>> This kid is Dayton strong
>> PHOTOS: Gem City Shine performers take the stage
>> PHOTOS: Did we spot you at Gem City Shine?
>> COMMENTARY: How the Gem City can and will keep shining
10) Strong Stories
Miami Valley residents shared personal stories about their experiences during the Oregon District mass shooting, Memorial Day tornadoes and other 2019 tragedies with Dayton Daily News reporters Cornelius Frolik and Amelia Robinson as part of the Dayton Strong Storytelling Sessions.
>> LISTEN: Dayton Strong Stories