VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — It’s been a little over a month since 12 innocent lives were taken by a gunman at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. While many are still working to heal and find normalcy following the horrible tragedy, there’s a physical reminder still sitting outside the center off Princess Anne Road.
For many weeks, people have paid tribute to the victims through cards, flowers, and more — creating a memorial. Although the amount of visitors paying their respects has been steady, the city says the time has come to dismantle it.
On Monday, the work will begin to preserve some of the many items left at the memorial by the families, friends and compassionate strangers.
City leaders say that it can not be a permanent memorial, but they are planning something that will honor the victims.
“It seems like a lot more people than 12 because of the stuff.” said Hilary Stanley, who was visiting the memorial on Sunday.
“Things have to move on, unfortunately. I’d love for it to stay, but it can’t stay forever unfortunately,” added Stanley.
Professionals with the Virginia Beach History Museums will begin collecting items on a regular basis to ensure the long-term preservation of its contents.
Not all of the items will be preserved — flowers (both real and artificial), vases, baskets, balloons, lawn ornaments, food and wet or moldy items will not be collected, the city says.
But the more personal, customized items will stay.
“It kinda tells you a little bit about each individual and how we’re not the same. We are all different in some way, but either way we all just come together,’ said Stanley.
Staff will collect both general memorial items and those associated with each victim. The city says the items will be carefully documented and made available to the victims’ families or stored for potential future uses.
A city spokesperson says at this time, they are concentrating on healing and collecting from the memorial.
Visitors of the memorial are hoping the permanent one will be something even better.
“It could be one. It could be 500. But they should still be remembered in some way, like planting a tree with a nice plaque with all their names or a nice statue. Something more permanent that people can come see,” said Karen Oberneier, who was also visiting the memorial on Sunday.
The city is still exploring their options for a permanent monument or memorial in the coming weeks.