A Few Reflections on the Tragedy at Virginia Beach
Today we mourn. We mourn because our backyards are not big enough to fence in the ugliness and violence of the world. For whatever innocence we may have had has now been completely shattered.
And so, today we mourn. We mourn because our city has now joined those distant places that are now no longer so far away. We are one of the many places where mass shootings have stained the white picket fences crimson with tragedy.
Today we mourn. We mourn because we are not exceptional; we are not excluded; we are not protected by sea walls against the tragic and the absurd. We are diminished, drained, dis-heartened by the loss of so many lives. We are in shock and breathless denial. It is hard to have any feelings at all, except a discomfort, as there is something eerie and unreal about this reality.
Perhaps that is because of the utter disbelief of it all, as we wonder, how could this possibly happen here, or anywhere for that matter? We find ourselves wrapped in senselessness, shrouded in bewilderment. For no one can understand the reasons why. We fail to come up with adequate or justifiable answers. We come up entirely empty---
And I suppose that the reason for this is that there is no “Reason” involved for the fatal shootings we have witnessed. There is no reason for what is unreasonable, and even to attempt to explain madness is to give it a dignity for which it is wholly undeserving.
Of course, we know that there is some kind of cause for what has happened, of course. But there is no reason here, just insanity under the trigger of a gun. Madness. Absurdity. Emptiness.
We are left to wonder how such things can happen in a civilized world. Too easily forget that just under the surface lurks the demons of barbarism. We all forget the frightening truth that, once in a while, we are all capable of madness, that we could all commit the most heinous of crimes. But we forget at our own peril, and we are left to wonder, to wonder how such things could happen…But is it any wonder…
- When so many people are in despair and have forgotten the loving presence of God?
- When so many have forgotten or ignored the values of their community, when they have become separated by isolation in their own private worlds?
- When so many live in the darkness, in the rotting ailments of their minds?
- When so many forget that we are a We, a We that lives and prospers together?
And so, Today, if there is any good that can come out of this deplorable event, it may be in the form of certain realizations…
- The realization that we are all connected to one another; that we rise and fall together, no matter where we are.
- The realization that tragedy is only a doorway or a fencepost away;
- The realization that our cities and towns are under assault, constant combat in ways that we cannot see because we are fundamentally not well.
- The realization that unless we find ways to treat our illnesses and come together as a community, as a family, these absurdities will go on and on.
- The realization that everyone of us is crucial, that we all count, that we all belong, that we cannot forget or ignore others that none among us are strangers.
- The realization that we are not exceptional or exempt, that we cannot escape the world in which we live.
- Quite simply, the realization that we cannot live without one another and without the fatherhood of God.
Therefore, let us resolve here and now that we will not ascribe reason to what is unreasonable. Let us resolve that we will not turn a blind eye to the ailments of our society and pretend that they will just drift away. Let us, instead, resolve to be people who first come together to mourn, with ready and responsive compassion, for it is altogether right and dignified to grieve for our extended family.
But then, let us invite all the caring souls and the love of God to fill us with hope, for in hope we have promise and recovery. As a great people and as a great nation, we will not allow any kind of madness or dysentery of the mind to quell the peace that we love in our land. Nor should we delude ourselves with the notion that these societal illnesses can be resolved by politicians or legislators, no matter how well-meaning and dedicated they may be. Our issues are deeper and more serious than any law or legislation can fathom. Our deprivation is spiritual and communal, and for these matters we need to reach beyond aisles and parties. We must come together as a people, as a village, where no one is left behind. For we must be people of hope, who trust and reaffirm the sanctity of our community, who know that our unity is crucial to our recovery; indeed, it is critical to our survival. Let us, then, not forget how wonderful it is to be a community of love and support. Let us recall that we are one nation, one people, indivisible and invincible, one human family, under the eyes of a loving and powerful God. Together, we can!
For God prevails! Though we may wander, and lose ourselves in waste and destruction, the Lord does not. God prevails! He is constant. He is our Guiding Star. He is our hope and salvation. God prevails! His mercy and His love endure forever.
Close with Orthodox Christian Memorial Service…
Priest: O God of spirits and of all flesh, You trampled upon death and abolished the power of the devil, giving life to Your world. Give rest to the souls of Your departed servants (Listed Below) in a place of light, in a place of green pasture, in a place of refreshment, from where pain, sorrow, and sighing have fled away. As a good and loving God, forgive every sin they have committed in word, deed, or thought, for there is no one who lives and does not sin. You alone are without sin. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your word is truth.
Priest: For You are the resurrection, the life, and the repose of Your departed servants, Christ our God, and to You we offer glory, with Your eternal Father who is without beginning and Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.
Priest: May their memories be eternal, sisters and brothers worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory. (3)
People: Eternal be their memory. Eternal be their memory. May their memory be eternal. (3)
Priest: Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us. People: Amen.
Laquita C. Brown 39, was a public works right-of-way agent who had worked for the city for four years.
Ryan Keith Cox was a public utilities account clerk who had worked for the city for 12 years, and he was known for his powerful singing voice in the choir at his church, where his father still serves as pastor.
Tara Welch Gallagher had worked in the public works department for six years.
Mary Louise Gayle had worked in the public works department for 24 years.
Alexander Mikhail Gusev, 35, was an immigrant from Belarus who earned a degree in civil engineering and went from being a lumber worker to serving as a right-of-way agent at the public works department, where he’d been for nine years.
Joshua O. Hardy had been working as an engineering technician in the public utilities department for four years.
Michelle “Missy” Langer, who recently turned 60, had been working as an administrative assistant at the public utilities department for 12 years. Prior to that, the Ohio native loved visiting Virginia Beach so much on vacation that she finally decided to move there.
Richard Nettleton had worked at the public utilities department for 28 years and helped lead multiple engineering projects for the city over that time.
Katherine A. Nixon, who was in her early 40s, had worked as an engineer at the public utilities department for ten years and came from a family of civil engineers, according to the Washington Post. She was the city’s senior engineer in charge of the utilities department’s regulatory compliance.
Christopher Kelly Rapp had been working as an engineer for the public works department for 11 months and played in a bagpipe band in his free time.
Herbert “Bert” Snelling, 57, was a Virginia Beach–based contractor who was the only victim who didn’t work for the city. He was at Building 2 to fill a permit at the time and was reportedly both a husband and a father.
Robert “Bobby” Williams was a special projects coordinator who had worked at the public utilities department for 41 years.
DeWayne Craddock, Perpetrator, fellow city worker in water and sewer. May God have mercy on his soul.