Former KAKE reporter describes Dayton as a town in mourning

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Photo courtesy: CNN Photo courtesy: CNN
DAYTON, Ohio (KAKE) -

"When I got home after working, you know, like a full day, I cried. I just bawled," said Monica Castro, a former KAKE Reporter who spent Sunday covering the shootings in Dayton for a local Ohio station.

For the second time in just 13 hours, the sounds of gunshots created panic and led to at least nine deaths and dozens of injuries in a crowded public location in the early morning hours Sunday.  This time in Dayton, Ohio.

Journalists always know the day may come when we have to cover horrible tragedy, September 11th, the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, mass shootings.  Yet, when they do happen, just like anyone else, we're never quite ready.

"I looked at that text message and I was like, 'Wait, what? Like, this is a joke. This... this is not happening," Monica said about her first reaction to the shooting, when her station called her back in to work just two hours after she'd finished her Saturday night shift.

(More: Hate ruled out, but motive still a mystery in Dayton attack)

She ended up being one of the first reporters on the scene.  She says while the chaos had quieted by then, it was still a scene she'll never forget.

"There was a woman that walked past me and she just she put her hands to her face. And I was just like, she has to be involved or she has to know someone, so I sat down next to her."

That woman, on the town for a birthday party, lost her cousin, Monica learned.  He was one of nine victims killed, 26 injured on the street when witnesses say a 24-year-old Dayton man opened fire.

"I immediately, I was just like, 'I'm so sorry.' And at that moment, I knew that there was really nothing I could say to make her feel better," she explained.

The mayor says the shooter was wearing body armor,  used a .223 caliber high capacity gun, and had additional magazines with him. 

"There was bullet casings everywhere."

(More: Sister: El Paso shooting victim, 25, 'gave her life' for son)

Monica says several witnesses described bullets flying all over the place.  Police say six officers patrolling the area responded  in less than a minute, killing the shooter.  Monica believes that quick response saved lives.

"One minute they're there. And then one minute they're not. And I can tell you, just from talking to people today, saying, in a blink of an eye, someone was gone," Monica said, describing how quickly the shootings happened.  "It's just crazy to think that not more people were hurt in this or killed."

She says she's always felt safe in the Oregon district where the shootings happened, an entertainment district she describes as being very similar to Old Town in Wichita.

"I've been to that area. It's much like Old Town. It's kind of small and the bars are all together and there's a few restaurants peppered in there," she said.  "And it's, just what I thought about it, I was just like, 'I easily could have gone out on a Saturday night after work. Like I could have been there.  It's so sad to think that people were just out having fun, and just trying to be normal people.  And someone, for a reason we don't know right now, decided to just interrupt, you know, someone's Saturday," she finished, choking up.

Monica adds that the hardest part of covering something like this is seeing others grieving and feeling helpless to do anything about it.

"When you have people, you know, hysterically crying, and you have people just trying to comfort them. And there's really nothing you can do," she said.  "I was just crying in the middle of this vigil, even though I knew I probably had to be live in just a couple of minutes. But it's just, it's real, you know?  It's all people.  We're all allowed to feel."  

Investigators say they don't know yet why the shooter opened fire.  But, one of the victims was his younger sister.

Check out these photos from across KAKEland snapped by our viewers, staff and local officials. Do you have pictures to share with us? Email them to news@kake.com.

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