VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — For the families of the 12 people shot and killed at Building 2 of the Municipal Center in Virginia Beach — it’s like it happened yesterday — and the emotional wounds will never heal.
On Tuesday, the community gathered to remember and reflect on that dark day: May 31st, 2019. On that day, a city engineer opened fire at his place of employment. Twelve people died and several others were injured; most were city employees.
The motive is still unclear: the FBI said he was motivated by “perceived workplace grievances” and “significant mental health stressors,” but other investigations couldn’t determine a definitive motive.
Tuesday was filled with remembrance events honoring the victims in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.
10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox was at the Municipal Center on Tuesday, just as he was that Friday three years ago after tragedy unfolded.
About 75 people came to the Municipal Center Tuesday afternoon, a place that forever will be remembered for an evil act that destroyed families, and forever scarred Virginia Beach.
Those scars are still visible three years later.
The mournful sound of a lone bagpipe at Building 2 was rounded out by a moment of silence to remember the horrific events of three years ago. The moment of silence started at 4:06 p.m. on the steps of Building 2, the exact time the shooting began.
At a private ceremony for family members, Old Dominion University unveiled the Virginia Beach Monarch Memorial.
The 12 lives are each represented by a ray of light, with a name etched in stone at the end of the ray. The length of the rays corresponds with the number of years each victim served the City of Virginia Beach.
Six ODU alums who died have blue rays with a crown, and the six others have gold rays and a lotus, the official flower of Virginia Beach.
Kate Nixon died in Building 2. Her husband Jason was with his three daughters, his mother, and Kate’s mother at the remembrance event Tuesday.
“ODU got the memorial right and got it done. I feel like we should have something by now in Virginia Beach because it is our city where this happened,” Jason Nixon said.
Things are not OK. Time has not healed deep wounds. The month of May was especially tough for the Nixons.
“The girls are still going to counseling, they have moments, the months of May the hardest. It’s really tough on Mother’s Day. Three weeks after Mother’s Day, Kate was murdered,“ Nixon said speaking about his daughters.
Debbie Borato came from Florida to remember her sister, Missy Langer, with flowers and memories.
“I just wish she were with me right now, and not here. This isn’t where she should be, she should be home,” Borato said.
Borato took comfort in her sister. The talks they had. The void left behind. It is painful still.
“She would call me, there were times we cried on the phone, she did tell me on the phone that things weren’t right inside her office,” Borato said.
Meanwhile, a second ceremony took place Tuesday evening at Mount Trashmore and capped off the day’s remembrance events.
Dozens of family, friends and coworkers of the “Virginia Beach 12” honored them in an hour-long ceremony as several city leaders and survivors took the stage.
“Virginia Beach will not ever be defined by an act of violence. For out of the darkness the vibratory and tenacity and dedication that continues to find this city and its people broke through and we saw in human terms what #VBSTRONG really means,” said city Mayor Bobby Dyer.
Their speeches painted a picture of hope and strength.
“We must make our lives more than just facing the daily struggles and challenges. We must think about and do something to honor our Virginia Beach 12. My coworkers, my friends, my adopted family members,” said survivor Bettina Williams.
A bell tolled as each name of the 12 was read aloud. twelve floral displays lined the stage representing those lost. Counseling services and therapy dogs were also available on site for those grieving. Following the ceremony, 12 bright blue lights were illuminated on Mount Trashmore toward the sky.