CINCINNATI – Ohio Gov. John Kasich praised Cincinnati police for their quick action in stopping the Fifth Third Center shooter and shared his personal grief over the deaths of three victims Thursday.
“It’s just a terrible, terrible situation,” Kasich told WCPO by phone from New York Thursday morning. “The law enforcement in Cincinnati did a fantastic job in responding. I talked to the mayor. All of the folks in my public safety department have been in touch with the officials in Cincinnati" to offer support.
Kasich, who lost his parents suddenly in a tragic traffic accident in 1987, grieved along with the victims’ families. He ordered flags on public buildings and grounds in Hamilton County and the Statehouse flown at half-staff "in honor of the victims."
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) September 6, 2018
“It’s just terrible. I’m in a meeting in New York with a ratings agency about the strength of our state and I just walked in and said, ‘Hug the ones you love’ because you just never know. You just never know what’s going to happen in this world today,” Kasich said.
"I couldn’t even imagine the calls that have to go out to the loved ones saying, ‘Here’s what happened.’ When that phone rings, you put yourself in their shoes. It’s just a black, black dark hole.
“So we grieve for the loss of life. We also want to stand with those who were injured and their families. What can you say? It’s just a terrible, terrible situation.”
Asked about his own experience – losing his parents to a drunk driver when he was 35 – Kasich said:
“When I was a much younger man, I got a phone call that my mother and father – my father was dead and my mother was going to die – hit by a drunk driver. So I remember the pain. I’ve recovered. What I can say is that the sun does come up.
“I just wrote a note to a 15-year-old boy who lost his father. His father was in his 40s. I wrote to the boy and told him how tough it is for him, but someday the sun will come up and to ask the Lord to help you.
“When I hear these things. it’s not like I have a flashback, but I can understand when I slow my life down and think about the calls that they’re getting and how the families come and gather and the neighbors and the loved ones - it’s the hardest thing in life to lose somebody that you love in an instant, in a moment when you least expected it.”
Kasich, who favors tighter restrictions on guns, didn’t want to speculate on what impact the Fifth Third Center shootings might have on the gun debate in Ohio or nationwide.
“You know my strong feelings about this. Now is not the time,” he said. “Ask the question in a day or two and let’s just put our minds to the families that have lost people.”
Speaking in general about the rash of multiple shootings in the U.S., Kasich said it’s important to have enough resources to address mental health issues and for people to look out for signs of stress or problems in family members and others around them.
“We don’t what to jump to any conclusions (about what led to Thursday's shootings). I think it is very important, however, that the ability to have the resources available to deal with those who are deeply troubled or those who, at moments in time, are unstable, those resources are absolutely critical,” Kasich said.
“It’s clear that in a world where things are moving so fast, and in a world where it seems as though we’re not as connected to one another as maybe we used to be, that it’s so important that we look out for those you work with and those in our families and that we’re willing to stand up at times and say, ‘You know, you need to have some help.’
“My wife and I were watching television the other night and there was a spot that came on with Michael Phelps, the great swimmer, and his message was - he spent a large part of his life staring at the bottom of a swimming pool and he goes on to say, paraphrasing - I wish I had interacted more.
"You know, he has difficulty and he has emerged and is a very healthy hero here in America. But it talks about the fact that if you need help, you need to get it. You can’t always do it on your own and we don’t always spot it. We just got to do the best we can do and know that were not always going to be successful.”
Other topics Kasich addressed in his interview with WCPO:
What can people do in the moment?
“I think the first thing we can do is when we’re all together at night for dinner is we tell our loved ones how much we care about them. Secondly, for those who are in a dispute, unfortunately, with a family member, get over it. Heal it as best you can, even when it’s tough. And say a prayer, Say your prayers for these people. You know, that’s a new thing now, thoughts and prayers and all that, but I do believe deeply that the Lord knows what’s going on. He didn’t make these things happen. Why he doesn’t prevent them is going to be a question for us to ask one day. Perhaps when we get there, we’ll fall on our knees and everything will be understood. That’s kind of my belief and my faith.
"And keep your eyes open and sometimes stick your nose in other people’s business, as crazy as that sounds. I can remember as a boy when I would do things and the neighbor lady would call my mother and my mother would get out the wooden spoon and give me a little swat and I really didn’t like that neighbor lady, but if I could see her today I would thank for the fact that she was concerned about me. We’ve got to be concerned about our brothers and sisters that we see."
What help can the governor offer Cincinnati police?
"They’re a top-rated unit down there. They really know what they’re doing. But there may be some after action that police officers have to go through that are in the middle of something like this – a shootout. Wer have services that we can offer – stress-related kinds of things that we can help with … Whatever they need down there, we’ll deliver. We realize officers deal with very difficult things at times. It ‘s not like you just wake up tomorrow and go back to work, There’s things tha you deal with based on the things you participated in and the things that you saw."
What would you say to Ohioans to put them at ease?
“Well, I’ve got two daughters just off to college – one is in the South and the other is in Chicago – and we just don’t know what can happen. We say our prayers and tell people, ‘Be mindful. Keep your eyes open. And be aware.’ And that’s it. We don’t want to lock ourselves in our homes. This is just part of what’s happening in our country, in our culture today, but it’s not a reason to curl up in a ball and say, ‘I’m not going to go outside.’ We’ve got to be strong and we will be fine."