“My first thought was that they were running towards Santa, because we thought that Santa was traveling in the parade,” Ben said. “But my wife is smarter, and she thought that maybe they were running because there’s something to run from.”
The crowd didn’t turn into a stampede where they were, but all the adults in the area seemed to be cognizant of the number of children, the Kolbers said, and the crowd cleared out quickly.
“Past the courthouse, they said that they had recovered a casing, and made an announcement they were putting the parade on pause, but at that time the place was cleared out,” Lauren said.
The Kolbers live in Dallas, Texas, but were home for Thanksgiving in Dayton visiting family. At this point in the evening, they had become separated, but instead helped a friend move her children away from the scene.
Some children they saw were crying. Others were calm.
“One of the kids with us who said, ‘I wasn’t I wasn’t taught how to handle this. I was just taught to hide under my desk,’ ” Lauren said.
‘It wasn’t something we were going to take a chance with’
Julia Wallace was at the parade with her family, including her three kids, two nieces and three nephews, six of whom were small children.
“We just went into grabbing all six of the kids who were there, six little ones, picking them up and handing them to an aunt, an uncle or a sibling, and getting them paired up with a responsible adult and getting them out of there,” she said. “We were lucky because we had an overabundance of adults with us tonight.”
Wallace said she wasn’t entirely sure what the sound was, and hoped that everyone moving away from the sound was overreacting. However, she was taking no chances with her family.
“In this day and age, you never know what this is. But it wasn’t something we were going to take a chance with. We had six little children with us and we just wanted to get them out of there no matter what it was,” she said.
The majority of attendees were children. Chairs and baby strollers were abandoned at Courthouse Square as people ran down Main Street, witnesses said.
Wallace, 45, said she had been going to the parade every year, and marched in the parade herself in high school. However, she didn’t know if she would ever take her kids to the yearly tradition ever again.
“We’ve been doing this since our youngest was a baby. She’s 11. It’s our absolute every year tradition. We’ve never missed it. But after tonight, I don’t know if we’ll ever do it again. And I don’t know that my kids will ever feel safe doing it because they’re old enough to know what was happening.”