VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — For the first time, a group of 14 people got together on Wednesday with one overarching goal: stay together and work together until a memorial for the victims of the 2019 mass shooting is dedicated.
It was May 31 of that year a city engineer shot and killed 12 people and seriously hurt four others before being killed by police at Building 2 at the city’s Municipal Center. Almost all victims were city employees.
In a conference room at the city’s The HIVE, a small business resource center, a majority of those appointed by the Virginia Beach City Council to the 5/31 memorial committee shared that they wanted to serve because they knew someone who died or someone who was in the building when the carnage unfolded nearly three years prior.
They quickly found they all had the same drive to create a place where the community can go to reflect.
“This really is an opportunity for you to unpack some of the story you have,” said Larry Schooler, a consultant with Kearns & West hired by the city to facilitate the committee, near the beginning of the meeting.
Members of the committee include direct family members of the victims, former city employees, design professionals, regular citizens and council members Sabrina Wooten and Michael Berlucchi in non-voting roles.
Day one was all about building relationships with one another, understanding each other’s perspectives and identifying the emotions they want visitors to the memorial to feel.
Members of the committee got together in small groups as themes such as “educational, inspirational, peaceful” and more were written on a whiteboard.
“It was very therapeutic,” said Ervin Cox, the older brother of the late Ryan Keith Cox.
Cox is not one of the members of the committee but was invited to participate when he showed up to the meeting.
“I want to make sure that all 12 are represented well with this and from the beginning what I’ve seen so far, I believe they all will be,” Cox said.
The committee will meet again on Thursday and hear from a panel overseeing how memorials for mass shootings came together in other communities across the country.
Eventually, all community members will be invited to share input. The committee members were already provided a copy of a 2019 survey on potential memorial options.
No timeline for the committee was established, aligning with previous comments that the memorial process “cannot be rushed.”
The voting committee membership includes:
- George Alcaraz, Planning Commissioner
- Billy Almond, Principal Landscape Architect at WPL Site Design and Resort Advisory Commissioner
- Sharon Felton, Virginia Beach School Board member and Historical Preservation Commissioner
- Kurtis Hooks, CEO, Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center
- Lawrence Duff Kliewer, Vice President, Cox, Kliewer & Company, P.C. Architecture
- Cossette Livas, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, African American History Teacher
- Jason Nixon, husband of Kate Nixon, a victim of the mass shooting
- Tara Reel, former Building 2 employee
- Officer Brian Ricardo, Virginia Beach Police Department
- Sylvia Strickland, Chair, Human Rights Commission
- Charlotte Zito, Norfolk Academy Teacher