I lived for the better part of two years in the late 1980s in the Dayton area, first in nearby Middletown, Ohio, then in Centerville, essentially a suburb of Dayton.
I covered a few high school football games for the Dayton Daily News and dreamed of landing a full-time job there. Instead, I took a staff position at the Middletown Journal a half-hour down Interstate 75.
My wife, Tammy, grew up in western Ohio and went to college at Wright State University in Fairborn, 15 miles up the road from Dayton. We spent hundreds of hours at her cousins' in West Carrollton and the house she rented with a friend on Volkenand Avenue in Dayton, studying, watching movies, laughing and dancing around the subject of marriage.
Tammy waitressed in downtown Dayton at the Spaghetti Warehouse, where a customer once doused her with a strawberry daiquiri after Tammy carded her.
We used to go dancing and socializing in the Oregon District of the city, just east of downtown. Back then – and today – the area was alive with bars, eateries, shops and music attracting an intermingling of diverse people.
That’s where a gunman opened fire in the early morning Sunday, Aug. 4. His shooting spree with a semi-automatic assault rifle lasted just 30 seconds before police gunned him down. Still, nine people died and 27 others were injured.
It was the second mass shooting in rapid fire fashion in the United States, coming 13 hours after a man targeting immigrants in El Paso, Texas, murdered 22 people and injured dozens more.
I hate to admit this, but I reacted to news of the El Paso shooting with only resignation and sorrow. To me and probably many others in the Midwest, it was just another in a long succession of bloody news coming from faraway cities.
Something must be done about these shootings, I thought vaguely.
But the news out of Dayton jolted me Sunday morning. This is a place I know well, a place my wife loves. When we travel southeast, she always wants to take I-75 so that we can cross through her old stomping grounds, even if it’s out of our way.
People who love Dayton are outraged and exhausted. Daytonians have been through a lot already in 2019 – tornadoes, a Ku Klux Klan rally, federal indictments of city officials. And now this.
But this is different. Tornadoes are an act of God. KKK rallies will come regardless of local antipathy. Corruption will infest government. But the ability of a lone gunman to kill nine people in less than 30 seconds is a perversion of reality.
Mass shootings are happening with startling regularity in the United States. Through 221 days this year, 277 people have died and more than 1,063 have suffered injuries in 256 mass shootings in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive. The organization defines mass shootings as cases where four or more people are wounded or killed, not including the shooters.
The statistics can be mind-numbing.
But I know Dayton, Ohio. I feel a connection to Dayton, Ohio. And it’s never been more clear to me that our country’s leaders have failed us in protecting places like Dayton, Ohio, from the deadly designs of a twisted mind.
So here’s my plea to our representatives in Congress — Rep. Susan Brooks and Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun:
Take assault rifles off the street. Close loopholes that allow pretty much any adult, regardless of mental stability and criminal intent, to possess these mini weapons of mass destruction.
Depoliticize the issue; ignore the National Rifle Association. Come together with common sense and fortitude to stop the madness. Draft and pass measures that will have a real impact. Take responsibility, rather than shrugging and passing it along to the states.
And do it before other cities like Dayton and El Paso endure this nightmare.
Editor Scott Underwood’s column is published Mondays in The Herald Bulletin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-640-4845.