DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Tuesday was somber in the Oregon District. The few people who roamed the streets were there to pay their respects to the victims. Gray weather and the pandemic kept many people at home, but some did gather at a memorial, leaving notes of love on the nine trees painted for the nine victims.
Dayton artist Julie Riley wasn’t sure if she’d be up to the task of memorializing the nine people who died one year ago. She’d mourned them and seen their faces, but she didn’t know them. She says that changed as she began to paint. “If you look close at some of the paint, I was crying while I was doing it so tears have disturbed some of the paint.”
Julie’s painting is one of nine trees commissioned for a public memorial. She says, “The nine doves and the nine leaves represent those who lost their lives. And then there’s 39 yellow hearts at the bottom and those represent those who were injured.”
Some people pinned personal notes to the memorial, but foot traffic was mostly slow. There were quiet streets, dark storefronts, and empty bars. A neighborhood often bustling with activity -even during a pandemic- was uncharacteristically quiet.
Riley says, “It’s a somber feeling, I think it’s been somber for about a week now throughout Dayton itself, but today in particular.”
Ned Peppers was closed. A sign in the window read “spend time with family and friends, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Stay strong Dayton.”
Community partners also unveiled a photo mosaic created with images from the past year, a small sense of healing that Julie says pales in comparison to what the families are going through. “I know that will be a lifetime of pain for them.”
Those who left a note at the memorial could also take packets of wildflower seeds to plant at home in honor of the victims. Because of the pandemic, no formal in-person ceremonies were planned in the Oregon District Tuesday.