Moving Forward While Hurting: The Anniversary Of The Virginia Beach Shooting
More than 100 residents gathered at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting that killed 12 people and injured four more plus a police officer.
Blue ribbons hung across each window of Building 2 — the site of the shooting. And fresh flowers lined the stairway leading into the building.
Visitors placed roses, sunflowers, tulips, stuffed animals and rainbow spinners near 12 memorial flower beds for each person who died.
At 4:06 p.m. — the time the shooting started — victims’ relatives, friends and other residents held a moment of silence before bagpipe players performed multiple choruses of “Amazing Grace.”
Several people toasted with a cup of Black Rifle Coffee to honor Kate Nixon, one of the victims. Black Rifle was her favorite brand.
“You guys showed us love by doing what you’re doing — just being here right now as we speak,” Jason Nixon told the crowd. “It means a lot to my family. It means a lot to the other families.”
Other residents had their own ways of honoring the victims.
Terry Bryan, a retired city employee who’s lived in Virginia Beach for nearly 47 years, wrote “Together We Remember 5-31-19” in yellow chalk on her rear view car window. She said she drew something similar in her driveway.
“It’s in the pit of my stomach even a year later,” Bryan said. “It’s just sad.”
Jason Renard — a city employee who works across the street from the building — and several colleagues went on a 12-mile bike ride to the municipal center. Over the past year, some days have been easier on him as he reflects on the shooting. Others have been difficult, he said.
"You can feel that people are still here with us," he said in front of Building 2. "It's eye-opening."
The mass shooting May 31, 2019 happened soon after an employee in the city’s Public Works Department resigned in a short email that morning. He continued his workday and returned from an appointment that afternoon. He brushed his teeth in the bathroom, as he normally did, then went to his car to retrieve a handgun and suppressor.
He shot one person on his way in. He then proceeded to shoot 16 more people, killing 12 of them. The ordeal was over in an hour and a half, when a police officer shot and killed him.
Independent investigators still have not found a motive for the massacre.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing, memorial events for the anniversary became virtual or solitary.
City workers painted a massive stylized forget-me-not flower visible from Interstate 264. The flower is composed of 17 shapes — one for each person killed or injured in the shooting.
The city also encouraged residents to wear blue, create door and window displays featuring forget-me-nots, observe a moment of silence and light up their homes and businesses with white or blue lights.
During a virtual remembrance ceremony Sunday afternoon, Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer said the community is "forever changed" and is continuously looking for ways to honor the victims.
"We will always look to comfort those whose hearts and spirits were broken on that day," Dyer said. "We will always find ways to move forward, while hurting."