As someone from the Virginia Beach area, I'm sure I can speak for everyone when I say that we are all shaken up about what happened this past Friday at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. I can guarantee that all of us remember exactly where we were at the moment the incident happened.
For me, I was at work, serving tables, about 20 minutes down a straight-shot road that leads to the Municipal Center. It was a typical Friday night at a seafood restaurant located on the water: busy and loud. I was completely unaware of the shooting until the headlines were plastered on the TV screens that sit on the walls in the middle of the restaurant.
If you're unaware of what happened, here is a brief summary: On Friday afternoon, the deadliest mass shooting this year, as well as the deadliest mass killing ever to occur in Virginia Beach history, took place in the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. The identified shooter, DeWayne Craddock, resigned from his position earlier in the day on Friday before going on a killing spree throughout the building he worked. 12 were killed — Richard H. Nettleton, Herbert "Bert" Snelling, Laquita C. Brown, Mary Louise Gayle, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Tara Welch Gallagher, Christopher Kelly Rapp, Joshua O. Hardy, Ryan Keith Cox, Michelle "Missy" Langer, Robert "Bobby" Williams — and many others were injured.
Craddock also was killed in a long shoot-out between him and the police. Motives are still unknown by officials and the event has been covered by local and national news sources.
Before continuing with my article, I wish to express my deepest condolences to the families, friends, and coworkers of DeWayne Craddock and his victims. Nothing prepares you for this unexpected and traumatic loss and the city of Virginia Beach, as well as it's surrounding cities in the Hampton Roads community, are all here for you to lean on. May you all find peace and heal from the wounds that are now etched into you. You are strong and you will get through this.
With that being said, the city of Virginia Beach is in chaos, yet finding a way to come together and heal. Nothing in this world will take away the loss of loved ones who were killed and the pain of those who witnessed the shooting first-hand and survived, but I will admit that I am so proud of the community for coming together and being there for one another. Between vigils/services, memorials, donations and many community events, the city of Virginia Beach has not stopped thinking about, remembering and honoring those who were killed and affected. The daily news has focused mostly on the shooting and any knowledge that is uncovered and it has also continued to update the community on services and events. A memorial commercial also comes on every commercial break with photographs of the twelve lives lost, emphasizing that "we remember."
Raw interviews continue being conducted with survivors. Although I feel that these people deserve their privacy and the news should provide them with space and respect, these interviews paint the pictures of what it was like for those people. They describe what they saw, what they heard, what their last words to their friends who were killed were. Although I will not hyperlink these interviews, as the thought of televising somebody who is probably in shock breaking down about the traumatizing event that they just experienced seems to be a little insensitive to me, I wanted to mention them because it emphasizes just how real what happened was. Nobody should have to experience that. Nobody should have to step over the body of their friend. Nobody should have to be a hero and get killed risking their lives to save everyone else's. Nobody should have to hide in their office, dodging bullets from an active shooter.
It's sickening that we live in a world where things like this keep happening closer and closer to home. I encourage those who have never experienced something like this close to them to count their blessings. Any day this could change and it only takes a split-second for a person to snap. It seems like more and more mass shootings are happening, as the Virginia Beach shooting marks the 151st mass shooting to happen this year alone. That number is terrifyingly unsettling.
I also want to encourage anyone who reads this to constantly be aware of your surroundings. Something that has allowed me to feel safer in such a dangerous world is the amount of effort I have put into storing a mental keepsake of what-to-dos in these life-threatening situations. When in a new place, scope out where you are and get comfortable with it. Know where you could go in case of an emergency. For places that you're at often, like work, school, the grocery store, even home, recognize a hiding spot that could potentially save your life.
Of course, nobody wants to live their life in fear and preparation of tragedy. In fact, nobody should. However, going the extra mile and establishing a back-up plan for yourself once in a while will not only allow you to feel a little more prepared for the unexpected, but it could even save your life. And my last rule: trust nobody. Like I said earlier, you never know when somebody is going to snap or hit a switch.
It's important to know that despite the tragedy that took place, Virginia Beach is not defined by it. If anything, it should define Virginia Beach as a unified community that comes together in times of need and crisis. It should define Virginia Beach as unbreakable, as an event that would tear people apart have brought people together. It should define Virginia Beach as strong.
This tragedy does not take away the city's beauty and sense of life. Through bad times, the community rallies together and pulls each other up out of the dirt. We should be known for Pharrell's Something in The Water, our boardwalk, our Navy SEAL team, our seafood, and our strength. Please do not define us by a tragedy that could happen anywhere. We are an entire community that has been affected. We are mourning. We are remembering those we lost. We are the helping hands that are reaching out to survivors and families of those lost. We are good. We are strong.
We are Virginia Beach Strong.