Video produced by Liz Dufour. Images provided by Dufour, Meg Vogel and Cara Owsley. Words and narration by Amber Hunt.
For the better part of a year, I traveled the country reporting on gun violence. Four of the eight episodes of Aftermath involved mass shootings -- one at a Jewish center, one at a high school, another on a street corner and the last at a concert. I, more than most, am well aware they can happen anywhere, at any time.
And yet, when it happened Thursday in Cincinnati, I still wasn't quite prepared. My brain and heart just didn't want it to have happened in our own back yard.
What makes that even sillier is that it has happened here before. Not that long ago, even. In March 2017, we had the Cameo nightclub shooting. With 16 injured and one killed, it was one of the largest mass shootings of the year. Even still, it didn't make huge national headlines. Yes, the tally of injured was high, but with "only" one fatality, it paled in comparison to the Pulse in Orlando, to Virginia Tech, to Sandy Hook, to San Bernardino. (I never met you, but I remember you, O'Bryan Spikes, no matter how "low" the body count that day.)
Fast forward to Sept. 6, 2018, and "only" five people were shot at Fifth Third Bank. Three died. A couple of news alerts went out on the national scale, but the story was barely a blip beyond Ohio.
There's nothing minor about it, though. We in Cincinnati are getting back into the rhythm of our lives, but there's a sense that something's different. You carry on because you have to, but I want the victims' families to know that even here in the newsroom, their loved ones' names are still on our minds and in our hearts.
I was tasked with figuring out who those victims were -- not in terms of names, exactly. As I wrote on Facebook to friends and family as I tried to explain how I can stay focused on such a heartbreaking story:
I found one Luis Calderón whose age matched that provided by the coroner, and whose address trail included Cincinnati and Florida. I called the first number I found and got voicemail with his voice still attached. I called another number. No answer. When I called the third, a young voice answered. When he told me Luis was his father, I started to cry. Here's the story that resulted: https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/09/07/cincinnati-shooting-miami-man-luis-filipe-calderon-shot-dead/1221805002/
I share this here not to make it about me, because it absolutely isn't. But I do want to intimate that even those of us who are simply tasked to chronicle these events are indeed affected by them. When I say in Aftermath that the ripple effects are never-ending, I include reporters, first responders, coworkers, even bosses who work in other cities. It goes on and on. I went home Thursday and read to my child before bed, as I do every night. I snuggled him as he fell asleep, as I do every night. After he drifted off, though, I didn't sneak out like I usually do. I held him tighter, until his little body got subconsciously annoyed and twisted out of my grasp. I smiled and whispered, "Okay, okay," and kissed his forehead.
As I wrote in the piece featured atop this post, we move on because we have to -- not because we forget.
I'm an author, journalist, photographer and college instructor.