I woke up Sunday morning to a barrage of texts and DMs checking on my safety from friends and family around the globe — I sleep with my phone on silent as an act of self-care and boundaries (especially after working in newsroom for a year and a half) — and I was confused, wondering if I’d accidentally posted something while sleeping that had people concerned for me. Instead, opening up Facebook immediately shook me to my core.
My beloved Oregon District, in the heart of my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, had become the 250th mass shooting in America this year. Nine people died, 26 were injured, and a community still reeling from facing 14 tornadoes over Memorial Day weekend was now faced with the horrors of gun violence.
I lived up the street from the Oregon for ten years — my house blog centered around trying to revitalize the struggling housing market surrounding Dayton proper by investing in the properties, the communities, and the city. The yoga studio I attended while twice pregnant was in the heart of the Oregon. I know the business owners and the patrons and the artists whose work lines the walls of the buildings, both inside and out. I’ve done countless photo shoots along the cobbled streets, both as a model and as a mother with my family, and professionally covered numerous stories of the whimsy and the wonder of those few short blocks. I’ve fallen in love in the back alleys and the dimly lit bars and carried my broken heart into the crowds to remember what it is to feel anything at all.
The Oregon District is the place we go to cut our teeth on life, to have fun and revel in the very things that make us who we are.
And now it is hollowed ground, in a war we didn’t sign up to fight, but are left with the casualties none the less.
Of course I made the trek from my now-suburban home back to the city — I mean I work downtown, Dayton is the biggest little town both in land mass and in community — to stand with my city and mourn with my family and friends, the two terms nearly indistinguishable from what they delineate. I walked the streets as I’ve always done, though I kept my head up and made eye contact with nearly everyone who crossed my path, said hellos, acknowledged the unexpected privilege of being able to exist another day when it could have been any single one of us, if fate had woven her threads just a hair differently.
As a sociologist, I make it my personal duty to study intersectionality, toxic masculinity, social media, and domestic violence — I have been doing so since my first paper on Columbine and its ramifications on the Millennial generation when I was only in 10th grade, twenty years now.
I am not shocked that it happened in Dayton, because it can and does happen literally anywhere. But as I saw someone say on Facebook, it is different when you are waiting for the list of the victims fully expecting to know who they are. There are aspects of this horror that ache a little deeper for me and the life I have lived, but these aren’t things to discuss at present.
So I went to my people. I hugged and high fived and and walked those familiar streets to take them back as much as my two feet ever could.
And I’m taking the words of Kevin Smith to heart — he begged, in light of the tragedy, to keep creating things. Since our time here isn’t guaranteed and all we have to leave behind are the things we make and we lost so many people who can never create again, I’m going to keep creating these stupid outfit posts and keep going on shoots, because they make me happy and maybe they make someone else feel something good, too. I am going to continue to leave tangible evidence that I existed, I was here, and to a few choice people, I mattered.
And I hope you find the time to create something, too. Because you are still here, you are full of magic, and you matter in this giant fucked up world.
Black high-neck midi tank dress: Old Navy
Black wool hat: H&M
Silver teardrop hoop earrings: Target
Amethyst prism necklace: my childhood
Floral & checkerboard Vans: DSW
Black leather tiny purse: Kate Spade