VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – We are forever #VBStrong.
Three years ago, on May 31, 2019, a gunman entered Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring four others. Of the 12 victims, 11 of them worked for the city.
News 3 remembers the men and women we lost on that tragic day:
The final investigation report into the shooting was released in March 2021; no motive was found.
In 2020, the City of Virginia Beach created a special website for remembering the victims of the shooting. The city also adopted the forget-me-not flower to create a memorial at Mount Trashmore. The city’s Park & Landscape Services team created the special symbol to honor the victims of the shooting, their families and the entire Hampton Roads community.
In 2021, a sand sculpture point of reflection, inspired by the "Love for VB" forget-me-not flower, was installed on 24th Street at the Oceanfront.
At 4:06 p.m., the time when the first 911 call was received in 2019, people in the city and across Hampton Roads paused for a moment of silence.
This year, the city held an in-person ceremony for the first time since the pandemic, which allowed the community to gather and remember the lives lost on that tragic day. The Three-Year Remembrance Ceremony took place at 7 p.m. at Mount Trashmore Park.
Virginia Beach City Council Member Sabrina Wooten remembers being newly elected to city council before the mass shooting.
"It’s just one of those things you don’t ever prepare for. You just have to go into action," Wooten told News 3. "Six months, when I won the election and came on as a new council member, that’s when the tragedy happens. It was devastating to the community, to myself, and I instantly went into recovery mode."
Virginia Beach resident Deborah Brown felt it was important to attend the ceremony at Mt. Trashmore Tuesday night.
"We’re honoring them three years later, and I just feel so bad that innocent lives were taken recklessly," Brown said. The family needs prayer and support. A lot of tears are being shed. A lot of prayers are being prayed. It’s just heart wrenching."
Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer, one of the speakers for the event, reflected on the past three years since the mass shooting at Building 2.
"You still feel the actual incident, and in 3 years, it’s still rocked the foundation of a great city," Dyer said. "I think the important thing is that we remember all the victims and their families in perpetuity. That's why we’re here."
Dyer also touched on the resiliency among residents in the wake of the mass shooting.
"The tremendous response of people, in spite of a tragedy, it was heartwarming. We can continue to be that way," Dyer added. "The City of Virginia Beach will not be defined by an ugly act of evil. We will be defined by the character and the people of Virginia Beach who are truly remarkable people. A remarkable community. A safe community."
Gov. Glenn Youngkin has also ordered that flags be lowered at sunrise on Tuesday and remain at half-staff until sunset.
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), released the following statement on the third anniversary of the tragedy:
Hampton Roads changed forever on May 31, 2019. That morning, 12 innocent people went to work to make Virginia Beach a better place, but they never returned home to their loved ones because of a senseless and selfish act of violence. They were mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors, veterans and public servants.
On the third anniversary of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center shooting, we remember those we lost, the survivors, the heroes, and the families who live every day with immense pain. The terror and tragedy of that dark day shook our community to its core, and even though time continues to pass on, the loss remains with us every single day. May we all take time today to reflect and keep the memories alive of the 12 Coastal Virginians who we lost.
Unfortunately, as we mourn for our 12 neighbors today and continue to heal, we also grieve for the people of Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo, New York, and Laguna Woods, California who have recently experienced similar horrific tragedies and loss of life.
Communities across the country continue to suffer from the epidemic of gun violence, and enough is enough. Now is the time to come together and act on commonsense reforms and solutions that protect Americans. Now is the time to act in a bipartisan way to keep our children, churches, and communities safe from gun violence and mass shootings.
The congresswoman also visited the Keith Cox Post Office building in Virginia Beach, where she presented Cox's family with a memorial honoring his bravery. Witnesses say Cox helped guide people to safety, helping save lives. The post office, which is right across the street from the municipal center, was renamed after him in 2020.
It was an honor to present Keith's family with this memorial and lead the charge in naming the Post Office building to serve as a physical reminder of his immeasurable impact on our community. pic.twitter.com/TQqOVwaCFA— Rep. Elaine Luria (@RepElaineLuria) May 31, 2022