Grief And Remembrance, 2 Years After Mass Shootings In El Paso And Dayton
Updated August 6, 2021 at 5:45 PM ET
On Aug. 4, 2019, Dion Green was spending the night out with his father, Derrick Fudge, in the historic Oregon District of Dayton, Ohio, when a 24-year-old man opened fire.
"When the shooter came out, me and my dad were standing side by side," Green recalls. He was not injured that night, but his father was, and died.
"When I thought my father only got shot once, it was really five times, and I don't understand how not one of them bullets did not touch me," he said. "And it's something I still play back over and over again: How did I not get shot? How did I not die?"
Thirteen hours earlier, on Aug. 3, 35-year-old Michelle Grady was at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, when a 21-year-old gunman walked in and opened fire. Grady was shot three times and survived, but her father, Pastor Michael Grady, says that she's still recuperating.
"The emotional and psychological trauma still affects her. Some days are better than others because of the devastation that the bullets did," he says. "But she's strong and vibrant. And she may have to have another surgery, but we're praying that that will not be the case. But she's on a road to recovery still."
In total, the Dayton shooter murdered nine people — including Green's father — and injured 27. In El Paso, the shooter murdered 23 people and injured 26 more. According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, that weekend encapsulated just two of the 417 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2019.
Mass shootings leave survivors to ruminate and process the grief and trauma left in their wake. In the cases of both Green and Pastor Grady, taking action has been a salvation.
In the two years since his father's murder, Green has formed The Fudge Foundation, a non-profit named after his father and dedicated to helping those who have found their lives upended due to mass shootings, violence, human trafficking and domestic abuse.
"For him protecting my life that night and allowing me to continue living," he says, "that's what gives me the strength to do what I've been doing around the country and fighting and being the voice for the voiceless and honoring each and every one of these family members."
For Grady, the wounds that that Saturday inflicted on families in El Paso are still very fresh, and won't heal anytime soon.
"You know, we keep saying that the people that were victims were lost," he says. "[But] they were taken. Murder is about taking. This individual got on the road, he could've turned around at any point, but his hatred drove him to the city by the Rio Grande."
In the time since, Grady has been a staunch advocate for gun control legislation, he's also been vocal about the roles that xenophobic and white supremacist rhetoric play in shootings like the one that almost killed his daughter. In an online post that was found to be written by the gunman, he described his attack as an action to stop "the Hispanic invasion of the state."
"We talk about the rhetoric that was happening during the time," Grady says. "I sort of blamed the rhetoric that came out of the highest levels of leadership in the nation to sort of give this gunman an understanding in his own mind that he was sort of doing the bidding of the administration as it was in those days."
But despite the tragedy that befell both of these men and their families two years ago, they resolve to push forward for those in Dayton, El Paso and anyone else whose lives were changed forever because of gun violence.
"And it sucks what happened that night, but it brought the best out of me because I continue to fight for survivors," Green says. "To help them regain who they are, to speak, let it out because we are stronger together, and we have to keep sharing our stories till it hits the desks and creates change."
Despite having never met before, Green and Grady stayed on the line after the original conversation, exchanged phone numbers and promised to talk to each other again before the end of the week.
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