Weekend Crowds Swell Oregon District Memorial, Funk Fest To Honor Dayton Shooting Victims

Aug 11, 2019

It’s been a week since a 24-year-old gunman shot and killed nine people in Dayton’s Oregon District, leaving more than two dozen other people injured.

And, the district was busy this weekend with crowds of people lining up to pay their respects at a makeshift memorial to the victims.

The sidewalk memorial of photos, flower bouquets, cards and candles outside the nightclub where the shooting happened grows bigger every day. Hanging above it is a graffiti mural reading “Dayton Strong” in red and blue bubble letters and hearts.

Running along the sidewalk nearby is a line of white wooden crosses reading the victims' names.

Lifelong Daytonian Lamont Smith came to the site with his wife and children. The family lives a few blocks away and heard the gunshots on the night of the shooting. But this was their first trip to the Oregon District since then.

Seeing the memorial in person, Smith says, feels overwhelming.

“But it’s a peace down here, it’s not no stench of death lingering in the air. It’s the stench of peace in the air and the memorial brought more peace for everyone coming to look at it," he says. "You have the crosses, the flowers, everything that represents peace is at this memorial.”

Lamont Smith brought his family to see the Oregon District memorial. He lives with his family a few blocks away and says the sound of the gunshots rattled his apartment windows.
Credit Jess Mador / WYSO

He says it’s important for people to continue to spend money in this historic, diverse neighborhood of mom-and-pop shops.

“We want to continue to support and build up the Oregon District. It’s the only place that we have that we can come and there’s multiple businesses and you can come and get everything done in one spot,” Smith says.

A similar spirt attracted Pame Ferguson and Charles Jones to the Oregon District.

"We were at Ned Peppers and had a drink. It was very heartwrenching, but it’s good to see the people coming back downtown," Ferguson says. 

The pair was also among the hundreds of people listening to music at the Dayton Funk Festival Sunday.

"It’s a good way of getting back into the spirit of what Dayton has to offer, which is all this music, all the love, all the diversity. It’s just a good time. It’s what us Daytonians do," Jones says.

The Johnson Treatment plays at the Dayton Funk Fest. Dayton is home to many famous Funk Acts, like The Ohio Players, Lakeside, Slave, and Sun.
Credit Jason Reynolds / WYSO

Some others who were downtown on Sunday felt drawn to the Oregon District to call attention gun violence. 

Amy Bridges, who works with special-needs students, brought her young children and her mother-in-law to lay nine teddybears at the memorial site. 

"My kids and I, we bought bears. And we just want to pay our respects," she says. "It’s become common in their lives to have to deal with this [mass shootings]. So, I want my kids to be prepared, and it’s something you need to talk about. You just have to. They need to know how to survive it and how to change it. Because we’re not doing a very good job." 

Pame Ferguson and Charles Jones spent Saturday night at Ned Peppers and Sunday at Funk Fest. They say they want to support businesses affected by the impact of the recent Oregon District mass shooting.
Credit Jason Reynolds / WYSO

Bridges says her children, 7 and 8, wanted to know the names of the Oregon District shooting victims and to hear about their lives. They wanted to understand exactly who was lost to gunfire last week. 

Bridges' son Sam got emotional looking at the names and photos of the victims at the memorial. 

"One of them could have been a president or a football player. One was a mom, and she had a baby, and the baby didn’t get to meet her mom," he says.

Dayton officials say they’ll leave the memorial up until all the shooting victims are buried.

Funerals for the victims are already underway.