Dayton Victim Was An Intern Who Had Accepted A Full-Time Job Days Before Being Killed
Karen Wonders was out of town last Sunday when she received a news alert on her phone of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. She operates the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, which provides exercise training to cancer patients and is based there.
"Soon after that I got a phone call from one of our trainers," Wonders said. "And I knew when she was calling that something bad had happened."
Four of her employees were in the Oregon entertainment district close to where a gunman unleashed more than 40 rounds of bullets in just 32 seconds, killing nine people and leaving two dozen others injured.
The violence interrupted a celebration. Nick Cumer, an intern at the alliance, had just accepted a full-time job. He and his colleagues went for a night out on the town to welcome him.
"It wasn't until the end of the conversation that she said, 'I just can't believe that Nick is dead,'" Wonders said, recalling her phone call with a female trainer. "And I didn't have the words, the ability to process that."
Then Wonders heard from an employee who had been out with Cumer that night. She learned that two others who were out with him had also sustained bullet wounds.
"They were both shot first and Nick's instinct was to pull them together and shield them from any further gun fire and from what I heard he was fatally shot while doing that and probably saved their lives," she said.
Wonders said 25-year-old Cumer wanted to devote his life to helping those battling cancer.
And even though it could be tough work, Cumer always kept a sunny disposition.
"We're opening a new office here in a couple weeks, and when we were looking at, 'who do we want to hire to fill this roll of running this new office?' Nick was top of our list," Wonders said.
Cumer's family declined to be interviewed but issued a statement saying the loss has left them heartbroken.
So are the two dozen employees at Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, where his colleagues say his spirit will never be forgotten.
"He was very outgoing, very funny. He had a smile that would light up the room. When he walked into a room, people took notice," Wonders said.
She shut down the nonprofit for the week and held counseling sessions. Two employees were hospitalized. Both are now in stable condition.
"We already provide counselors for our patients who are in emotional crisis situations, and it was good because I knew who to turn to," Wonders said.
Cumer, whose funeral service is planned for Saturday, is one of nine victims of the Dayton massacre who have left survivors behind.
Earlier on Friday, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley stopped to meet with mourners visiting the makeshift memorial with white crosses bearing the names of all of those who were killed at the bar that is the site of the shooting massacre. Whaley said some residents are grappling with survivor's guilt.
"This district is very close knit, and so the people who work here also hang out here and they know each other very well, maybe you weren't here this weekend or you left a bit earlier than you normally do," she said. "You know, there's a lot of guilt that goes along with that because maybe you survived and somebody else didn't."
Whaley said the city is operating a hotline and providing counseling services provided by groups including the Red Cross.
"We'll be grieving a lot this weekend for the loss of life, and some peoples' lives are forever changed," Whaley said.
Next week, the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance opens its doors again, but Wonders said adjusting to daily life following the tragedy is going to take time.
"I think that the emotional toll of this is going to be felt for a long time," she said.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.