“This is where the whole community can gather”: the WB 5/31 memory committee begins

Virginia Beach, Virginia – For the first time, a group of 14 people gathered on Wednesday with one main goal: to stay together and work together until a memorial to the victims of the 2019 massacre is dedicated.

It was May 31 of that year that the city engineer shot and 12 people were killed and four others were seriously injured before being killed by police in Building 2 in the city’s municipal center. Almost all the victims are city officials.

In a conference room at the city’s The HIVE, a small business resource center, most of those appointed by the Virginia Beach City Council to the 5/31 Remembrance Committee shared that they wanted to serve because they knew someone who had died or someone who was in the building when the massacre unfolded almost three years ago.

They quickly found that everyone had the same desire to create a place where the community could go to reflect.

“It’s really an opportunity for you to uncover some of the history you have,” said Larry Scholer, a Kearns & West consultant hired by the city to facilitate the committee’s work, before the meeting.

The committee consists of direct members of the victims’ families, former city officials, design professionals, ordinary citizens and council members Sabrina Wooten and Michael Berlucci, who do not have the right to vote.

The first day was dedicated to building relationships with each other, understanding each other’s perspectives and identifying the emotions they want the memorial visitors to feel.

Committee members were grouped into small groups as topics such as “educational, inspiring, peaceful” and others were written on the board.

“It was very therapeutic,” Erwin Cox said older brother of the late Ryan Keith Cox.

Cox is not a member of the committee, but was invited to attend when he appeared at the meeting.

“I want to make sure all 12 are presented well, and from the beginning what I’ve seen so far, I believe they will all be,” Cox said.

The committee will meet again on Thursday and hear a jury that will observe how the memorials to the mass shootings have come together in other communities across the country.

Eventually, all community members will be invited to share contributions. Committee members a copy of the 2019 survey on possible options for the memorial has already been provided.

The terms of the committee are not set, according to previous comments, the memory process “can’t be rushed”.

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