Never alone, and always #VBstrong

Published 9:32 pm Thursday, June 6, 2019

It’s a bit of sad and horrible irony that last week I wrote about grief in this space, not knowing that just hours after the column was published, the horrific events at Virginia Beach’s Municipal Center took place.

Many, obviously, will grieve for a long time to come. Family and friends, acquaintances who loved, cared for, served for and served with those who were killed.

The outpouring of support has been palpable, and it will need to be there for a long time to come.

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When I first learned of what was going on, and what ultimately happened there, I sent a text to my wife to make sure she wasn’t going anywhere near that area, as we live just four miles from the Municipal Center.

After getting those assurances, my mind wandered toward not only the immediate loss and injuries that took place, but also to the grief.

Memorials are and will continue to take place, and people will publicly and privately remember those lost forever.

It put Virginia Beach on the map again for a much different and more somber reason than the recent and wildly successful Pharrell-inspired Something in the Water event.

What happened in Virginia Beach didn’t stay there. We all feel the pain emanating from Virginia Beach, but we also understand its resiliency.

At most places with signs in the city, there are messages of #VBStrong, or Love for Virginia Beach. They have made it to the electronic signboards on the region’s interstates and highways, they have made it here to the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, and they have traveled the globe.

No city or entity wants to be in the all-too-large fraternity that Virginia Beach is now in, and yet here it is.

As expected, and as the compassionate and caring people that I’ve encountered here, Suffolk city leaders and residents offered their condolences and assistance, and supported their friends and neighbors in Virginia Beach by wearing blue in support and solidarity with them.

While we can hope that no more incidents of this type will happen, the reality is that they will, and they already have. Just the day after the Municipal Center mass shooting, there were five more incidents categorized as mass shootings, with one death and 21 more injured in all, according to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive. Through June 1, it has catalogued 156 mass shootings, including the May 25 incident in Chesapeake that killed one and injured another nine people.

We can only hope that one day there won’t be the need for hashtags or slogans for cities to get through such horrific incidents, and that our leaders, and all of us, can come together to figure out a way to prevent things like this from happening, so that we don’t have to grieve so hard afterward.

Because what’s truly harder? Finding ways to prevent this, or going through the mourning and grieving process of losing people we care about to such violent acts? Clearly we haven’t yet figured out the former, and once again, we’re suffering through the latter.

So let’s gather our thoughts and take time to pray, yes. But then let’s all do a good deed, spread love and take some action so that we can come together in celebration, and the help and friendship we give one another can come with a smile, and not out of sadness.