DAYTON — Six months ago tonight, people in the Miami Valley went to bed not knowing they would wake to horrifying news.
Just after 1 a.m. Aug. 4, 2019, nine innocent victims died and many more were injured when a gunman started shooting along Fifth Street in the Oregon District.
News Center 7's Sean Cudahy spoke to one of those survivors.
“I think about it every day. Every day is a struggle knowing that it could have been me. So that’s what gets me the day. Knowing I’m still here, still breathing,” Dutch Woods said.
There’s still a “Dayton Strong” sign in the shape of a heart outside Ned Peppers. It was much quieter, but that’s because it’s a Monday night.
Six months ago during the late night hours, the street was packed with people who came down to have a good time on a summer Saturday night.
Ask Woods how he is doing, he might say something like, “I’m doing good. I can’t complain.”
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Sit with him a little longer, and you hear some of what he’s been dealing with six month after witnessing and experiencing what most people could not imagine.
“I think about everybody there that was hurting. The long line. The screaming. Almost to where it can be like a nightmare, but I’m reliving it during the day,” Woods said.
He said he thinks about what he saw in the Oregon District, where he was standing in line when the gunfire started early Aug. 4.
A few days after the mass shooting, Woods told Cudahy his harrowing story about ducking for cover, then not realizing a bullet hit his arm until he drove away. Doctors eventually got it out after three tries.
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A half year later, Woods said it’s the joyful energy of his 4-year-old son that gets him through those harder days.
“You feed off of it,” he said.
Woods also is helped by messages of love, spelled out in cards from his friends, still sitting on his coffee table. Next to them is the program from the funeral of Thomas McNichols, a victim who did not survive. The two met minutes before the gunfire started.
Six months later, as nine families only begin to grieve the loss of their loved ones, Woods said he is always ready to answer a phone call from anyone else who survived that terrible night, but is still trying to come to grips with what they saw.
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“It helps a lot knowing you can connect with a person who felt the pain and the anger and the anxiety that you felt to where … some people they won’t really understand how you feel so they’ll tell you, ‘oh, you’re all right.’ But you just don’t know. I can be smiling and something could be wrong, you just never know,” Woods said.
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In the Oregon District, Woods said he did come back to visit the bars about two months after the shooting.
It’s always felt safe to him and that hasn’t changed, other than Woods said he now tends to be a bit more vigilant.