In Virginia Beach, a tragedy we didn’t deserve

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Following the mass shooting at Virginia Tech 12 years ago, professor and poet Nikki Giovanni delivered a stirring address that included a simple truth.

“No one deserves a tragedy.”

It is a mantra that bears repeating in Virginia Beach and across a commonwealth that on Friday witnessed yet another senseless act of violence.

According to law enforcement, a gunman shot one person in a car outside of a government building at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center before proceeding inside, where he fired at public workers, citizens, police — anyone who had the misfortune to be at that place and time.

Twelve people died from the gunfire. Most were city employees and residents of Virginia Beach. Many had worked in those offices for several years and, in one case, for more than four decades. Two Chesapeake residents, one person from Norfolk, a Powhatan resident and one contractor were among those killed.

“This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” Mayor Bobby Dyer said at a Friday news conference. “The people involved are our friends, co-workers, neighbors and colleagues.”

Those killed, confirmed by police officials on Saturday morning, should be held in our hearts, our prayers and our memories. Four others were injured. As of Saturday, three were in critical condition while the other was in fair condition. One of those shot was a Virginia Beach police officer who was saved by his ballistics vest. He was among the brave first responders who were on the scene quickly and, according to Beach Police Chief James Cervera, engaged the suspect in an extended gun battle.

The suspect, who was a 40-year-old who worked as for the city’s public utilities department for 15 years, was shot by police and died at the scene. Investigators hope to learn what led to his decision to come to his workplace armed with a .45-caliber handgun and murder his coworkers.

No one deserved this tragedy, certainly not the men and women whose lives were cruelly and coldly extinguished on Friday afternoon.

It is an awful thing that this happened anywhere and difficult to square this with the peaceful setting of the Municipal Center.

So while this happened in Virginia Beach, it is not the community’s burden to bear alone. That was evident in the messages of support and sympathy that poured in from the other cities here and across the commonwealth, with offers to help in whatever way they could.

That kindness — all kindness, right now — is greatly welcomed and sorely needed.

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