VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — May 31 marks two years since one of our region’s darkest days.
A former city employee went into Building 2 at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center and opened fire.
He killed 12 people, and hurt five others, including a police officer on May 31, 2019. The community is still healing from the scars left behind by that day.
The city held an online memorial ceremony due to COVID-19, but many people came out in-person to visit designated memorials throughout the city Monday to pay respects.
During the ceremony, a bell tolled 12 times, flags were lowered and the Virginia Chorale honored the fallen with a song commissioned for the moment.
Memorials were also set up around the city. A sand sculpture was created on 24th street at the Oceanfront. The Virginia Beach forget-me-not-flower was carved into a sand mound. The victims’ names were also listed on a banner.
The forget-me-not flower was also painted at Mount Trashmore. At the municipal complex, near where the tragedy happened, a dozen flowers were set up to honor their lives. People could leave messages at both sites.
10 On Your Side found former city Police Chief Jim Cervera outside Building 2 at the Municipal Center. He was serving as chief when the mass shooting happened.
“I just felt it was important to come by and pay respects for the 12 individuals whose lives were taken,” Cervera said. “And to honor the first responders who ran into the gunfire that day — putting their lives on the line for people they had never met.”
“That gave me a sense of comfort that all of the training, all the preparation, all of the professionalism, all the dedication and the virtues that our cops have [when they] showed up in this building,” Cervera continued.
The mayor and vice mayor on Monday also recalled a sense of pride in the community in the days following the tragedy.
“Those acts of kindness define us by helping us remember those we lost. So let’s keep it going,” said Vice Mayor Jim Wood.
The city leaders encourage citizens to find inspiration from the victims’ biographies online.
Scott Howard took a break during his morning workout to take a picture to post a picture of the sand sculpture at the Oceanfront on social media.
“I knew about the memorial. I just wanted to make a point to appreciate what everybody is doing to try and remember the people,” he said.
Howard said it’s important to remember the lives lost and those forever changed.
“It helps us remember who it was, who it is, and the families that are still here. We definitely need to remember,” he said.
Flags were flown at half staff throughout the city.
Click here for more on the Love for VB website.
Watch the 2-year remembrance ceremonial video below.