Without a doubt, this has been another challenging and heartbreaking time here in Dayton and the Miami Valley. The month of May came in like a lamb but went out like a lion as we were pummeled by more than a dozen tornadoes on Memorial Day. Then barely sixty days later, a senseless act of violence occurred earlier this month in the early morning hours of Sunday, August 4 just hours after a shooting in El Paso. I don’t know about you, but the deep sorrow remains and if we had any sense of innocence, it may now be gone.
I, like you, received many, many kind messages from family and friends here and from Florida where much of my side of my family remains. But I also received so many gracious and thoughtful messages from across our nation, some from people whom I’ve never met. These were sincere gestures and brought back strength, hope, and peace as much as anything could have during this painful time for our community.
I don’t pretend to be the expert and possibly show others with complete clarity and resolve as how to fix this problem of violence. However, there has to be some ideas as to how we can all help stop these senseless, mindless acts of aggression among our own human race. Our leaders are trying to develop compromises that may or may not be acceptable to both sides of the gun-rights issue. However, until we can find the best ways to eliminate this violence, maybe we can at least find ways of reducing it. All of us can be a part of the solution as long as we understand we have a problem and are open to civil conversation, dialogue and debate over how we go forward. Oh, did I say civil conversations? In today’s America, that may be a novel idea.
At the very least, part of the answer is for us all to be much more vigilant. We must watch for signs that could point to others’ disturbing actions, even if that person you have concerns about is a member of your family, a loved one, a friend, a co-worker, a fellow student or whomever. We must be more aware of warning signs around us and be prepared to actively speak out.
Many knew the individual who caused this evil action, yet no one reported his behavior until after it was too late. Sorry … unacceptable. This young man had serious demons inside of him. I will not repeat his name for I will not glorify him nor his actions. Instead, I will share with you how I thanked God for our first responders and their quick and deliberate actions. Also to those medical responders, both professional and laypeople, who took action that morning on Fifth Street. To them all I give thanks. For me, they are our heroes. In addition, I am thankful our community reacts respectfully to those in or out of uniform who protect and serve us. I’m thankful we as a community have not sunk to the low of other communities who have acted so abusively as of late to those who pledge to serve and protect us … even when at times it’s from our own evil actions.
I hope we remember those nine loved ones who were killed and the 27 others who were injured in this tragedy. And let’s not forget others who were in the Oregon District that morning who were traumatized beyond what we might imagine.
In the meantime, we must quicken our resolve to go forward. That’s why I am proud to say that several Dayton-based organizations have banded together to create a major event in the Oregon District today … Sunday, August 25. Moreover, I’m equally proud of those companies, organizations and people who have helped to fund a local victims fund through The Dayton Foundation. That fund will continue to grow even beyond today, so I thank you for your grace.
I will be in the Oregon District today and tonight. On that same sidewalk of August 4th and not intimidated by those evil acts of the recent past. I hope I can count on you to come together at this gathering of citizens set up to bring us back closer together as a peaceful, loving community. A community that can live, work and play together and discuss our differences civilly. Our nation needs a more-positive cultural change. We’ve become too polarized, too partisan and too angry. We need a change.
These have been dark times recently; but in the truth of all of this, maybe we can find some light … and perhaps that light will strengthen us all to find faith in each other; hope for our human race; and the type of love we should teach our children and each other about how to live our lives peacefully together. Dayton Strong.
Phillip L. Parker, CAE, CCE
President and CEO
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce