REVIEW: “Dayton’s Darkest Summer: The Rise from Tragedy”

A review of the UD media production student documentary “Dayton’s Darkest Summer: The Rise from Tragedy,” centered on the tornadoes and mass shooting that occurred in the summer of 2019. Photo courtesy of Dayton 24/7 now.

Maddy Bartsche  
Contributing Writer 

University of Dayton media production students premiered their short documentary, “Dayton’s Darkest Summer: The Rise from Tragedy,” centered on the tornadoes and mass shooting that occurred in the summer of 2019 on May 21 and Aug. 4, respectively.

All of a sudden, Dayton was in the national spotlight twice in one summer. The emotional documentary shares firsthand stories from survivors and victims’ families and touches on how the city hopes to continue moving forward.

The documentary, overseen by Roy Flynn and Gregory Kennedy of the University of Dayton Department of Communication, involved the expertise of 11 students who worked for over a year to create the 17-minute film. The students’ efforts are admirable considering the pandemic abruptly shifted them to working from their home computers. 

“Thanks to the dedication of these students, the ingenuity of their faculty and staff, and the can-do attitude of UDit, they finished the important film. Much like the city of Dayton, they would not be kept down by anything, not even COVID,” reflected Joe Valenzano, chair of the communication department. 

UD students and community members were given the opportunity to attend the premiere via Zoom and take part in a discussion with the production team after the showing.

All in all, over 200 viewers attended the live Zoom showing. Additionally, the piece has gained over 7,000 views on YouTube in the past few weeks.

The documentary portrays the resilience of the city hit by two major tragedies in a span of 68 days.

Interviews with survivors as well as experts on tornado formation and PTSD illuminate the difficulties that recovery entails.

From images of houses laying in shambles to flower memorials lining the streets of the Oregon District, the documentary lets the audience see the firsthand damage caused by these tragedies. Instead of letting these tragedies hinder the city, Dayton came together as a community stronger than ever before. 

Weeks after the mass shooting, Dave Chappelle, a current resident of nearby Yellow Springs, hosted a benefit concert for Dayton called Gem City Shine. The concert, along with GoFundMe pages for victims and Dayton Foundation donations, demonstrated how the city rallied together to support those impacted by the shooting.

The documentary also features clips of community members working to rebuild houses destroyed by the tornadoes. 

These relief efforts mark support not just for the nine victims of the Dayton shooting, but support for all victims of mass shootings around the country. The common struggles culminated in a sense of solidarity between community members and mirror instances that have occurred all over the country. 

 When asked to describe the city in one word, Daytonians brought to mind words such as gritty, support, courageous, love and power.

One word appeared again and again though as the answer to this question — resilient. 

Clinical Psychologist Kathy Platoni reflects in the film saying, “I think it’s called the Gem City for a reason because it really is a Gem.” 

Indeed, plagued by a summer of natural disasters and devastating loss of life, Daytonians manage to let their struggles bring them closer together. 

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