VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The 5/31 Memorial Committee met Wednesday evening to discuss potential sites for a memorial to honor and remember the mass shooting victims.
Twelve people were shot and killed on May 31, 2019, by a city employee at Building 2 at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.
Jason Nixon’s wife Kate was one of the victims. Nearly three years later, the hurt and painful memories still linger.
“I have my days,” said Nixon. “Everyone has their days.”
This 5/31 Memorial Committee, which Nixon sits on, is helping him and his three girls begin to heal.
“Does this trigger some things? A little bit,” Nixon said. “But is it also a good thing? Yes. I believe it is.”
This was the second time the group has met to discuss ideas and possible designs for the memorial. The first time they met was in February.
Since that tragic day, there have only been temporary memorials to pay tribute to the victims on the shooting’s anniversary. City officials said the planning process for a permanent memorial has been stalled because of COVID-19, changes in city administration, and an investigation finding the shooter’s motive.
There are eight sites on the table right now. Not all of them have been disclosed to the public.
Nixon, along with several other families of the victims, believe something permanent should be built where the tragedy happened at Building 2, or at least close to it.
“That’s where it happened,” said Nixon. “That’s sacred ground. In all honesty that building should’ve been torn down and turned into a park. Then we could’ve had a nice memorial there.”
Other potential sites include Beach Garden Park, Princess Anne Commons Gateway Park, and Williams Farm Recreation Center.
Sylvia Nery-Strickland is the chair of the Human Rights Commission of Virginia Beach and a 5/31 committee member. Her niece was working that day in Building 2 but was out at a meeting when the shooting happened.
Nery-Strickland, along with many other committee members, are hoping to have a memorial in an open but private space so survivors and families can mourn.
“We all want to come away with a sense of peace, love, community and leave people with a good feeling,” she said.
“I want it to resemble the city of Virginia Beach and its essence,” he said. “I want it to resemble the day that Virginia Beach got rocked and how we felt that day. I want it to be remorseful; I want it to be honorable. I don’t want a happy-go-lucky memorial. I want something that’s going to sit with somebody. They can reminisce and they can meditate. They can go and grieve. That’s what we need.”
The committee will be visiting all eight potential sites Thursday evening. They’ll meet again on April 27 and April 28.
The committee is made up of Virginia Beach City Council members, family and friends of the victims and community members.