Virginia Beach residents mourn, hold vigils, visit memorials Saturday

Many shocked, devastated by the shooting that left 12 victims dead

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Virginia Beach residents still had raw feelings of shock and devastation Saturday as information continued to be released about Friday’s mass shooting that left 12 victims dead at a municipal building.

As people all over the city tried to make sense of what happened, many gathered for vigils, including dozens of people at a shopping center near the crime scene Saturday morning.

They came together, as one pastor put it, in the shadow of a tragedy.

“It is painful. It is devastating,” Virginia Beach resident Summer Johnson said. “It’s senseless. There’s no answer for this.”

They came to grieve, pray and sing.

Many knew the victims. Some were co-workers, like city employee Jayme Rivera.

“I’m a little shaken up and scared because this is so close to home,” she said.

Others were neighbors of the victims, like Rand Buenaventura.

“It still breaks my heart. It’s really saddening,” he said.

Gov. Ralph Northam spoke at the event, saying there may not be answers to many questions that remain.

“We need to be strong and we need to rely on our friends and our families,” Northam said to the crowd.

Local City Councilman Aaron Rouse has seen a similar tragedy unfold. He played football at Virginia Tech and was in Blacksburg for the 2007 mass shooting.

“I remember how we came together in that time of need. We will do that here in our city,” he said. “We will not let fear stop Virginia Beach from coming together and being the best that we can be.”

Many were glad to see people coming together Saturday.

“It’s hard when you go through something like this. It shatters the community, but I think today shows just how strong Virginia Beach is,” Virginia Beach resident Amanda Rivera said.

There were thoughts about how the community can move forward and not become numb to tragedies like this one.

“We’ve got to be accountable for one another, to love one another. We’ve got to get back to raising our children to respect one another,” Johnson said.

Memorials were set up Saturday, including one near the building in which the shooting took place and one outside the local police station. People came by to drop off flowers and pause to remember the 12 victims who lost their lives.

Nearby, local and state police as well as FBI agents continued to investigate inside the blocked-off area surrounding the municipal complex.

There are more vigils and other events of remembrance planned in the area throughout the weekend and into next week.