Oregon District Shooting: Aunt mourns her nephew one year after he died

DAYTON — Donna Johnson had not seen it coming. Busy at work, so many of her thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic these days, she missed her nephew…but could not have imagined how deeply the one-year anniversary of his death would affect her.

“We’re still just…numb, kind of,” Johnson said.

Her nephew, Thomas “TJ” McNichols, was one of the nine innocent victims killed in the August 4, 2019 Oregon District shooting. Johnson said McNichols, who was living with her at the time, was just there to have a good time with friends – like any 26-year-old.

She said the loss remains difficult to comprehend.

“To wake  up every morning to look for him to be down in his room,” she said, “It’s kind of like, wow, he’s not here.”

Johnson said McNichols was working at DHL at the time, and was a proud father of four children.

“Just living life, just living life the way a young man at his age would do,” she said.

Like so many families in the wake of that terrible night, Johnson said her family has struggled in the last year, but has kept his memory alive by cooking his favorite foods at family gatherings and often wondering what “TJ” would say if he were there.

But Johnson also said, her nephew would not stand for his loved ones to be “dragging and down.”

“You have to sit up there and think, ‘you know what this is not what he would want,’” she said.