COLUMBUS, Ohio — Just as so many others across the nation, Evan Williams was devastated to hear about the mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District three years ago Thursday.
“It was shocking ‘cause I have family and friends down there, so I didn’t really know who was in it, I didn’t know if it was family, friends or whatever, so it was really shocking,” he said. “That just took my breath away, and then the full gravity and how many people it was, it was a lot to take in.”
He didn’t realize then how much his connection to what happened would grow. About a year after the shooting that killed nine people and wounded 17 others, Williams said Dion Green reached out to him.
Green lost his father, Derrick Fudge, in the shooting but survived the incident himself.
Williams was asked to create a tribute piece for the nine victims who were killed, and he says the process was long and emotionally grueling.
“It takes a lot out of me to do tribute pieces because you know the story, and you know why you’re doing it, and then you want to make sure that you’re doing something that’s going to make the family happy and proud and all of that kind of stuff, too,” he said. “So it’s just a lot.”
Just in time for the third anniversary, the piece is now complete. It features the faces of all nine of the people killed. It will be featured at Thursday evening’s remembrance event in the Oregon District at the Fudge Foundation’s Hart Gala this weekend. After that, it will be on display at the Springfield Museum of Art.
“Me mentally, I want to work with Dion and the foundation just to make sure we do our part so that these tribute pieces don't have to be done,” he said. “That's my goal. Like, I don't want to do them honestly. The sad thing is, I know there will be an opportunity to do another one relatively soon. That’s the part that like weighs on you, like, yeah, I know that more is coming, but I wish it would stop.”