What It Means to Be Dayton Strong

Updated on June 27, 2019
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Beth is a Dayton resident directly impacted by one of the dozens of Memorial Day tornados. She shares her thoughts and experience with you.

Dayton Strong, a Movement of the People

937 Strong t-shirt whose sales help tornado victims.
937 Strong t-shirt whose sales help tornado victims. | Source

The Day Dayton Proved How Strong It Really Is

On the evening of May 27th, 2019, the sky over the northern part of Dayton, Ohio, opened and unleashed its power upon us as if a fury of flying monkeys were about to take us on a wild journey over the rainbow. Many people were winding down from their Memorial Day celebrations when the storm hit. Within the days after the event, the National Weather Service confirmed that Dayton, Brookville, Trotwood, Riverside, Northridge, Beavercreek, and many smaller surrounding areas were savagely struck by a tornado outbreak that you would only expect to see in the movies.

More than a dozen tornados swarmed, some as strong as EF4, touching down and staying on the ground, leaving miles and miles of destruction. We were all about to learn what it means to be Dayton Strong.

There are many variations of the term Dayton Strong, usually used with a hash-tag (#) when sharing on social media. The concept has spread like wildfire in the wake of the calamitous events on that spring night. And through strong communities, the idea can grow and spread.

Also commonly seen:

  • #Dayton Strong
  • #937 Strong
  • #Northridge Strong
  • #Riverside Strong
  • #Beavercreek Strong

Moderate to Total Destruction for Miles and Miles

Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed and even more were badly damaged.
Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed and even more were badly damaged. | Source

What Dayton Strong Means

As one of the many who live in the path of one of the largest tornadoes that touched down that night, I discovered the power of being Dayton Strong. It is knowing that together as a community we are mighty. It means setting differences aside and taking care of one another. It means listening, communicating, and facing post-tornado related safety, social, and economic issues like a champion. It is the act of being a hero to those in need and standing together as "We the people". Sorry, no Walking Dead type anarchy on these streets.

Those who are Dayton Strong have been through disaster, as either its victim or as one who lifted others, and in many cases as both. Dayton Strong (or the variations) signifies the mass-unification of an entire community. It is proof of the power behind each voice working together to build a collective voice: one that cannot be silenced.

Dayton Strong is the idea that whole communities can band together and do something about pain and suffering. It's proof that people are strong even if the local government is unable to find solutions for the social and economic problems of the times.

Being Dayton Strong means to run to those in need, not away from them.

I sincerely hope other communities, ones who fear what might happen in the face of disaster and destruction, can learn how to bring the same type of unification to their communities. The truth is your voice matters; humans are capable of greatness when we put differences aside and lend a hand. Even in this lonely looking technological world, we do not have to stand alone.

Community-Driven Disaster Response

The community response was amazing. Thousands pitched in to clear debris, bring food and water, and help in many other ways.
The community response was amazing. Thousands pitched in to clear debris, bring food and water, and help in many other ways. | Source

How Can the Nation Learn From the Power of Unification?

After the storm hit, no one was able to get much sleep. The devastation was so serious that people had to call off from work (if their workplace hadn't been blown away) and place our full attention on safety. In our case, no roads led to home because every single one was blocked by downed trees, powerlines, and debris. Our phones didn't work well on the first day, major towers were down, and family was desperate to know who was safe, even though they would be unable to get to us until roads were cleared.

This was mayhem, combat vets were telling us it looked like a war zone, and I am pretty sure every single one of us looked dazed and confused most of the time. I walked out of my back door, knowing I would have to address the issue of whose roof was in my backyard. There was no power, the water was not safe to drink, there was no internet (which means you couldn't use a debit card anywhere), the local grocery store Grocery Lane was busted, and I mean busted. Some of the houses were destroyed, and the people taken by Red Cross bus to local shelters unknown to other neighbors. It was a successive moment of total mayhem; hungry, thirsty, slightly traumatized, and knowing that while the tornado passed so quickly, the pain it caused would continue for some time.

Just then, heroes emerged, at first walking down the road pulling wagons. Then, when roads opened, bring supplies by car. Most kept coming back day after day, lending support until we were stable again. There was no judgment and no hate. These heroes would simply ask, "Are you hungry?" and give us food. They would ask, "Are you thirsty?" and give us water. They brought flashlights, toilet paper, personal care products, pet food, and really whatever we might need during recovery.

They would listen to our voices and seek to know what, in that moment, we need. They would bring it. Only hours after the storm, the community worried about us, they came to us, and they kept us strong so that we could face the destruction that fell from the sky. Even our most loved weatherman stood and defended the need to keep the coverage going. This was no the government response, which did come as the red tape allowed, and I thank the Red Cross and Salvation Army from the bottom of my heart. No this was a community response to a major natural disaster.

This was the people asking the question, "Are our neighbors OK?" And coming en-mass to make sure that we were. It's a little strange, there are so many information sources which seem to promote so much doom and gloom that sometimes we aren't really sure if the people can still stand together when it really matters. Well folks, Dayton just proved that it does and it can. Dayton just proved you can let the hate go, you can communicate and function well with those who hold different opinions and views. Whole communities can still show the world what WE THE PEOPLE means, and how to be strong together.

When Things Get Real

Most homes hit by the tornado feverishly worked to get traps on the damaged roof before the next rain.
Most homes hit by the tornado feverishly worked to get traps on the damaged roof before the next rain.

Tornado Response: What Worked and What Didn't

I wish that every city could be a community that is prepared and ready to provide the strength to heal the victims, the strength to help the victims heal themselves, the knowledge that if a disaster hits your home we will be running right back at you to bring you food, water, and support. Do not be confused though, the Dayton Strong response I speak of did not come from our local government. The disaster planning for our city seems to need quite a bit of work.

As mentioned above, there was state and federal response. We appreciated seeing our governor Mike DeWine flying over to check on us. The Red Cross people are straight up heroes, as are St. Vincent de Paul, and the Salvation Army. For those uninsured, FEMA did eventually make its way into town.

However, the local government's disaster protocol seemed to be poorly planned, and therefore less than functional. It was the community stepped up and filled the gap. If the community can muster such an amazing response with no planning, I am pretty sure the people in charge of disaster planning could have done their jobs better.

Many people were left asking "Where is Nan Whaley?" (our mayor). The answer was that she followed disaster protocol.

As a person who once volunteered with the CDC on a disaster planning committee in Greene county, my advice to the mayor would be, "Maybe you ought to get rid of the people in charge of creating and implementing the protocol that made so many people feel as if you just didn't care. Maybe you need to make sure intelligent, hard-working people are creating plans that might actually work." This would require attention to funding issues, but a good plan can save more money than you might realize.

The people of Dayton have proven that they are #DaytonStrong. We, and every person in every city, deserve a government free of greed and corruption who are dedicated to their jobs. We demand our government to hear us, and to do their jobs well. We demand our governments to be willing to go the distance for its people, and demand that we all forbid the greedy to prey on those who are in times of need.

The people of Dayton and the 937 zip code are waiting to see the local governments rise up, just like the people did. It's time to live up to the standard we set for you, and hey you work for us. Don't forget, even if you work in government you are people just like us, and in many cases our neighbors. If you feel more greed than passion for government work, please quit and go into another line of work. We showed you what Dayton Strong meant, now show us.

Parting Words and Thanks

I want to give a thanks to the thousands and thousands of people who stood together through the Dayton tornados. We appreciate your support, and want you to know that you were our beacon of hope during a dark time. Each and everyone who helped is a hero in your own right. Even with the weak local government response, the people had the people's back, and for that I could never give enough thanks.

If you're ever in Dayton, you are likely to see people wearing T-shirts with the Dayton Strong logo or any of the variations. These are made by local companies who donate some of the profit to Dayton tornado victims to help them rebuild their lives.

Dayton Strong will live on far past the tornado. Remember, together we can make a difference.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Beth Trent


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