Yesterday, I watched the pouring rain puddle on our deck, watched the ripples form and expand in those puddles. I’ve been thinking a lot about the ripple effect of the shooting at Fifth Third Center, how it has impacted some of us severely — has changed us profoundly — but how it truly ripples through all us all, no matter if you were there or not.
Cincinnati is the kind of city where everyone knows everyone, so much so that we joke about it and the first question Cincinnatians are asked is where they went to grade school or what parish they’re from because, chances are, you know people in common.
Someone knows someone who knows someone who works for Fifth Third or was in a nearby building (if you’re reading this, you know me). I think about the doctors and nurses at UC Health who treated the victims and then went home to tell their families and friends of the horror they’d been through. I think about the reporters trying to sort through the details and keep us informed, how tirelessly they worked. I think of the guy at Hoxworth Blood Center who told me while I was giving blood that he is a former cop and had been stationed downtown, how he called so many of his friends on the police force to check in on them and how he couldn’t stop thinking about the countless times he’d walked the Square. I think of the SWAT team members who evacuated the floor I was on, of the police officers who acted so quickly and bravely — how this will stay with all of these Cincinnatians and their families and friends forever.
I think about all of my co-workers who are now trying to process through their grief and fear. For those of us who were safe, we are now thinking about the hundreds of decisions we made before 9:06 am, how a delay in getting from one meeting to the other or a change in schedule may have been the very random thing that kept them away from the violence. How one of the women in my meeting had just been at Dunkin’ Donuts at 8:59 a.m. to buy donuts for our group. While we were sheltering in the conference room, she kept replaying this to us as we all stared at the box of untouched donuts. I think about the impact to every person on and around the Square and every Fifth Third employee working downtown or elsewhere, how all of our friends and families are now trying to help us while they are also sorting through their own feelings. How we are all thinking “what if…” or “if I had left earlier/later, I might have…”. The “what if’s” are tough to stop.
I think about how we stood on Fountain Square Friday holding hands, comforting each other, and how we allowed that comfort to momentarily ripple through the hundreds who had gathered. It was a good moment and we need more of these.
Most of all, I think about the co-workers and extended Fifth Third family members who lost their lives and the terrible ripples of grief so many are experiencing. And my thoughts are centered on Brian Sarver, someone I work closely with on the museum project. How, the day before, he and I were in a meeting talking about security for the museum. How we always start our weekly museum meetings with a safety tip from the construction side of things. While he is still recovering from his physical injuries, it’s unfathomable to think about the emotional and psychological damage he will carry and the ripples among his loved ones.
As the company historian, I never, ever imagined this kind of story would be part of Fifth Third’s history. I never want this horrible kind of ripple extending out from the heart of our city or any city, school, mall, public space or home. This is the story none of us ever want to tell.
The past two days have been hard. The initial shock and disbelief has worn off and what is left is a jumbled mess of feelings I still can’t quite manage. I find myself crying randomly and replaying every moment of that morning. I find myself worrying about my coworkers who are feeling the same way and hoping they’re managing as best they can. I worry about those in PR and communications who have to bravely carry on as the media and others continue to ask questions and demand answers.
When I went to the vigil on Friday, I hugged a coworker before we walked to the Square. We both broke into tears. I said, “I thought I had my shit pulled together but I’m not sure if or when I ever will.” She agreed.
When I ran with my training group on Saturday, I broke down several times and fell behind my regular pack. That said, I was comforted by being around others, by talking through the run and getting some hugs and encouragement. And I thank all of those who listened to me as much as I thank my husband and all of our friends who came out last night to see Pike 27 play. The extra tight hugs filled with love and support meant the world to me.
Stories are beginning to filter through the Fifth Third family about the heroic acts happening in the tower and Fifth Third’s three other buildings — a Fifth Third employee who pushed people to safety behind the Dunkin’ Donuts counter, others who warned people to keep out of the elevators, our security guards who put their bodies in front of others as the shooter came through the lobby.
That this tragedy is now part of our company’s history and our city’s history is devastating. Our company, our employees and Cincinnati are forever changed. And the ripples of these kinds of horrific events keep moving outward. At 7:36 am on September 6, ABC News ran a story about mass shootings, reporting that 246 incidents (defined as shootings where four or more killed or injured) have occurred this year. That was an hour and a half prior to the shooting at Fifth Third so now it’s 247.
Two hundred and forty-seven.
Yesterday, I felt helpless and hopeless that we can do anything to stop the violence that continues in our country. Today, I’m ready to fight. We may not be able to stop every act of violence but we must do better. We must.