Turning hurt into healing: Group of VB shooting survivors, first responders get new tattoos

Virginia News

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A group of survivors and first responders from the Virginia Beach shooting on May 31 turned tragedy into healing through ink.

10 On Your Side was at the event at the Virginia Beach Law Enforcement Training Academy and spoke with David Jonothon Nieves who got a tattoo of David and Goliath on his chest.

Jonothon Nieves told 10 on Your Side it’s a symbol of a battle he’s still overcoming.

“I chose this because of what happened that day because that became another Goliath in my life.”

Jonothon Nieves is the coordinator for active shooter training in Virginia Beach. He scheduled an active shooter workshop on June 1, a day before the shooting happened.

“It’s a constant reminder of both my failure and success,” he said. Some of the people in that building were trained by me and they told me they heard my voice that day and some people that didn’t make it were also in my class.”

The organization, named Artists of Israel, has given tattoos for people affected by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. They worked with Virginia Beach artists.

UJFT partnered up with Artists of Israel to give free tattoos through a program called Healing Ink.  

The group of Israeli tattoo artists is skilled in covering injuries from terrorism and combat.  

All the artists at the event donated their talents and didn’t ask for money in return. For the artists, being a part of a healing process was enough.

“It’s heavy what happened here in May, it’s terrible,” said Southpaw, a tattoo artist.

14 artists from Virginia and all over the world were at the event helping to heal both physical and mental wounds.

“It means everything to these people,” Southpaw said. “I mean they wouldn’t be here. It’s not like you just walk in the building and just get tattooed. There’s a process behind it. You have to fill out an application. You have to tell your story. You have to relive it.”

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