DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Mayor Nan Whaley remembers the moment she learned nine people had been killed in her city. A city employee knocked on her door as her cell phone was set to ‘do not disturb.’
“I answered the door and said ‘What happened?’, I knew this was a bad deal if this person was at my door. They said ‘There’s been a mass shooting in the Oregon District. Nine people are dead,'” Whaley said.
Chief Richard Biehl got the call about a mass shooting in his city while out of town. He was back in Dayton within hours.
“This has been the mostly deeply saddening experience of my career,” Biehl said.
Both the Mayor and the Chief had prepared for the possibility of a mass shooting.
“You know it could happen every day and you pray that it never does,” Whaley said.
This time it did happen in their city.
“You wonder what the strength and resiliency of the community is going to be like and it’s been completely amazing to me,” Whaley said.
Like everyone else, she’s still coping with the trauma.
“Like Chief says, you know, you’ve got to get up every morning. I say, ‘Okay, I got up this morning and I’m working on behalf of the people in this community’,” Whaley said.
They’ve both been inspired by the city’s grit and resiliency.
“It’s amazing how many people reach out and just want to shake your hand,” Biehl said.
Biehl said his department’s quick response proved to him they were trained and ready for this type of event. Being ready emotionally, however, is something different.
“I don’t know that you’re ever prepared for the actuality and its true impact,” Biehl said.
Both the Chief and the Mayor are working through their emotions like everyone else.
“Just acknowledging that pain that we all share to some degree and allowing that to be as it is,” Biehl said.
“It comes in different waves. Sometimes, when I see just an act of amazing generosity, it wells me up,” Whaley said.
Mayor Whaley said part of being Dayton Strong is seeking help when it’s needed. She said the August 4 shooting has had traumatic impacts on the community whether folks were directly or indirectly involved. Encouraging more access to mental health is now one of her focuses.
Her other focus is encouraging state and federal law makers don’t allow Dayton to become just another name on a list of cities who’ve experienced a mass shooting.
“To make sure that this issue, this mass shooting didn’t happen and it’s an ‘Oh well’. That’s really what drives me now,” Whaley said.
Going forward, Biehl said the department is taking time to analyze their response to see what they can learn from it. The chief said he is encouraged by what he’s seeing on the national level to detect suspicious behavior by potential shooters.
“The number of arrests that have happened in recent weeks is evident that if action is taken promptly, we have the ability to prevent these incidents from occurring,” Biehl said.
While he and the city are still processing what happened, it’s the encouragement from the public helping ease the pain.
“The acknowledgment of what we were able to do to what we did to minimize pain and suffering. That what we did mattered to the community,” Biehl said.
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