It has been one year since Pittsburgh-area native Nick Cumer died during a mass shooting at a Dayton, Ohio bar.
He was a Washington High School graduate and student at St. Francis University.
Before the headlines were written and witnesses shared harrowing stories of that night, those who knew Cumer best knew how the story would end.
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“There’s no way if he went out, he didn’t go out taking care of others. When it came to fruition it was expected because that’s who he was,” said Cumer’s best friend Tim Hornick.
Cumer died shielding two female co-workers from gunfire outside popular Dayton bar Ned Peppers.
“It just blows my mind that he could have run away and been safe, but those girls would have died,” said Cumer’s mentor Karen Wonders. “It came to no shock to any of us to hear that is actually what happened. He died saving those two girls.”
Cumer was celebrating a job offer that night. He’d just finished an internship in exercise physiology with Maple Tree Cancer Alliance in Dayton. His boss, Wonders, trusted him with opening a new office. He would have been at the side of cancer patients, guiding them through the bravest battle of their lives.
“He had a really, really strong effect on everything he did, but especially on people. You hear all the time. And even though it’s been a year, you read stories about patients he had in Dayton — the patients he had while working at St. Francis who speak highly of him and remember him,” Hornick said.
For Cumer’s loved ones, the one-year mark is painful and raw. They say every birthday holiday and every Aug. 4 will be.
As friends reflect on his legacy, Cumer’s funeral remains the second-largest in the history of the funeral home.
“He just had a ability to bring people together,” Hornick said.
“The hero died, and it is tragic, but it’s inspiring too. To love others. You never know when your time is going to be up,” Wonders said.
Hornick still calls and sends him messages.
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s still around, still getting the messages. I honestly think he’s answered sometimes in his own ways. Be it something positive happening to me whenever I’m thinking about him. A butterfly flying by or a Batmobile driving by,” Hornick said.
And while Cumer is never going to write back or walk through the door, his loved ones are using his legacy to spread kindness and love and carry his story forward.
“Remembering that right now, the world seems a little bit scary, but remembering there still are good people, and there still are stories of inspiration we can learn from,” Wonders said.
“How can I be positive today? How can a leave an effect on someone else and get myself to be better today?” Hornick said.
Cox Media Group