Temporary Virginia Beach shooting memorial being taken down, preserved

Virginia Beach Mass Shooting

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The temporary memorial that rose immediately after the mass shooting tragedy at the Municipal Center will soon be gone. The process began Monday morning of sorting and preserving the most meaningful items left as a show of sympathy for the 12 victims.

It’s tedious and emotional work for the staff at the Virginia Beach History Museums, and they expect to be here all week.

“It’s an important part of the healing process, and at last we feel like we are actually able to do something,” said project coordinator Anne Miller.

Miller is in charge of the painstaking process of preserving not just memories, but a dark and undeniable chapter in the city’s history.

“It’s probably the most historic event in the history of Virginia Beach, and we want to make sure that it is fully documented.”

Starting with shooting victim Alexander Gusev, the staff will work through the 12 crosses and collect items of specific meaning to surviving families. 

Those items will go into storage, and staff will photograph them and present the images on a flash drive. An honor guard will present the flash drives to the families, for selection of items they would want to keep.

Several people used the opportunity to visit the memorial one last time, including long time Beach resident Bob West.

“It was just a real punch in the gut for all of us. They were obviously 12 outstanding individuals, and I just felt like I had to and needed to come down here.”

Karen Peek, mother of Ryan, 5, used the day as a learning experience for her son who has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.

“When we got here, I said ‘OK Ryan, how many people died here that day?’ He said 12, and I told him about the different crosses, so I do think he understands.”

Ryan and his mother have talked before about the horrific events of May 31.

“He had me read each name to him and he wanted to know the stories of each of the people. He asked me, are they in heaven?

The museum staff says there might be a smaller temporary display going up in City Hall or perhaps in some of the city libraries.

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