DAYTON, Ohio (WCMH) — Standing together in the face of tragedy is what the crowd at Sunday’s candlelight vigil was doing in Dayton’s Oregon District.
Nine victims were killed when the suspect, identified by police as 24-year-old Connor Betts of Bellbrook, Ohio, opened fire at 1:07 a.m. ET.
For some, the pain is unbearable. The grief, enormous.
“We been through a lot here in Dayton,” said resident Terrie Redding. “Tornados. Disasters and now this. It’s a horrible tragedy for our community.”
So many at the vigil knew the victims.
Laura Raypoch’s friend is fighting to stay alive at this very moment.
She doesn’t know if he’ll pull through.
“And, I’ve known him for a long time,” she said. “It’s just awful. All of this is awful. It happens so much and now Dayton is another statistic.”
The vigil took place along 5th Street in the Oregon District of Dayton, near where the shooting occurred.
The suspect’s sister, 22-year-old Megan Betts, was killed in the gunfire, along with 27-year-old Lois L. Oglesby, 38-year-old Saeed Saleh, 57-year-old Derrick R. Fudge, 30-year-old Logan M. Turner, 25-year-old Nicholas P. Cumer, 25-year-old Thomas J. McNichols, 36-year-old Beatrice N. Warren-Curtis and 39-year-old Monica N. Brickhouse.
The crowd’s sadness soon turned to anger and frustration as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine offered his condolences. The crowd erupted in screams out of desperation, chanting, “Do something!”
That sense of helplessness felt by many at the vigil as they looked to clergy for guidance on how to move forward from this nightmare.
“We’re believing that Dayton can be stronger,” said Renard D. Allen Jr., pastor at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church during his opening prayer. “We’re believing that Dayton will be stronger. We’re believing that whites and blacks and people of all races can be united. We’re believing.”
Allen was followed by Kindy Ghussin from the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, who called for unity in the time of mourning.
“If we divide this crowd right here by who is pro and who is against guns, we’re going to have another battle right here and we’re gonna have more bloodshed. So let’s grow beyond that,” he said.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley took the stage to a large round of applause.
“I know that many of us are hurting right now and are uncertain of where we go from here,” she said. “We have lots of challenging days ahead, but you know Dayton is fearless.”
Congressman Mike Turner echoed the calls for unity.
“We reclaim this space. We are coming together as one. We are a community and we are a community of one,” he said.
“There’s no weapon more powerful than the weapon of love,” Allen said. “There’s no weapon more strong than the weapon of forgiveness. There’s no weapon greater than the weapon of hope.”
And at this moment, that is all this crowd has.
At the beginning of the vigil, 10 doves were released: one in honor of the survivors, nine for the ones who died, to show that their lives mattered and that they will never be forgotten.
Many people at the vigil said they aren’t going to let what happened break them. They will continue to come out and not live in fear.
Police shot and killed the suspect, who was wearing body armor and using a .223 caliber rifle during the first 30 seconds of the shooting. The rifle was fitted with a magazine that allowed it to have a capacity of 100 rounds, police said.
27 others were injured and taken to area hospitals.