Hours After Mass Shooting, Pop-Up Benefit Brings The Community Together

Aug 11, 2019

Just hours after the mass shooting that killed nine and injured dozens more, Emily Mendenhall decided to throw a fundraiser. Not some time off in the future. But right then and there.

Mendenhall is from a restaurant family that owns multiple businesses on 5th Street, where the shooting occurred. She runs Lily’s Bistro. Her brother runs Blind Bob’s, and one of the waitresses who works at Blind Bob’s, Alayna Young, was shot.

“We’re going to donate all proceeds back to our employee from Blind Bob’s who is in the hospital right now getting shrapnel removed from her leg,” Mendenall said the afternoon of August 4, getting choked up talking about what happened.

“She’s in surgery. She was just out trying to have a nice night. Shooter came by. She hit the deck… What a thing: for someone to be a young woman and be shot at.”

Inside Lily’s, dozens of Oregon District residents, business owners, and employees gathered to eat comfort food--chicken and waffles, and chocolate treats--and try to console each other. 

But outside, the streets were still blocked off by police and fire, and a cleanup crew in white disposable body suits hosed down the sidewalk. To get into the fundraiser, attendees had to be escorted through the crime scene by the police.

A cleanup team working in the Oregon after the mass shooting, just hours before the first vigil.
Credit Jason Reynolds / WYSO

Josh Weston, a waiter at Lily’s, says he grew up in Springfield, in the same neighborhood as Monica Storey Brickhouse, who was killed in the shooting a few hours before.

“I seen her in church. I seen her in the community,” Weston says. “Very nice lady. Very funny. I can just picture her waiting in line to go to Ned’s.” 

Weston says he left Fifth Street shortly before the shooting, but learned about it through a text from Mendenhall, and then the texts kept coming in from friends who were in the Oregon District.

“Someone sent a picture and there’s just people laying all up and down the sidewalk,” he says. “So, I just deleted the picture. I’m down here too much to be constantly reminded of that image of five, six, seven, eight people all piled up.” 

Amelia O’Dowd owns a hat store called Brim on Fifth, right across the street from the scene of the shooting. She was bussing tables at the benefit “because somebody needs to do it, and it’s what they would do for me, so it’s what I do for them.”   

O’Dowd says there are images from the shooting that will stick with her, like when she went to check on her store and saw the crime scene across the street.

“The whole sidewalk was covered in those little, yellow, numbered placards that they use for crime scenes, for bullet casings. And there were just hundreds of them on the ground.” 

Everyone at the benefit said they were shocked by the number of bullets fired and the number of people killed and injured, especially as the police were nearby and killed the shooter within a minute of him opening fire.

“I love shooting guns,” Mendenhall says. “I actually really love shooting guns, but I don’t think there’s any way a person should be able to kill nine people in 24 seconds. It’s 100 percent not okay with me.” 

And just as quickly as the fundraiser was set up, it starts to close down. The streets reopened, and everyone at Lily’s prepared to walk about 50 feet down 5th Street, to the stage built under the big “Oregon” sign that welcomes newcomers to the neighborhood for the first of many vigils and memorials in the weeks to come. 

Update: Alayna Young, the Blind Bob’s waitress who was injured in the mass shooting, has posted on social media that she is at home and resting now, though the doctors were not able to get all of the shrapnel out of her leg.