VIRGINIA BEACH – Several thousand people in the city of Virginia Beach came together Thursday night to honor those lost in last Friday's mass shooting at a government complex and to mourn alongside their families.
The service at Rock Church sought to reach people of all denominations and faiths. Speakers included Gordon Robertson, the CEO of CBN; Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg of Ohef Sholom Temple; Imam Rachid Khould of Crescent Community Center; Dr. Veronica Coleman of New Jerusalem Ministries; and Deacon Gary Harmeyer of Church of the Holy Apostles.
High-ranking state dignitaries including Gov. Ralph Northam, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Congresswoman Elaine Luria also attended. Both Northam and Luria spoke.
Northam highlighted the sovereignty of God in the midst of a tumultuous week. "I am a person of faith and I believe that God is in control," he said. "I don't always understand his purpose but I have to believe that God is good--and I believe that people are good. Amidst the horrors created by one person we saw the good of so many others."
Luria spoke of the resilience and unity she's seen in the city. She spoke of victim Keith Cox whom police say sacrificed his life to save others, survivors fighting for their lives in the hospital, and law enforcement officers who stormed into a "war zone."
City council members led the audience in a moment of silence for each of the 12 victims.
Vice Mayor James Wood energized the service as he praised the city's first responders, receiving multiple standing ovations as he recalled their work.
"Our wonderful city employees have stepped up, and they've stepped up big-time," he said. "From the police officers who rushed to the sound of gun-fire, to the fire and EMS personnel, both career and volunteer who brought the wounded out to safety, to the sheriff's deputies who took control of the city and locked it down...our emergency response was dynamic, it was impressive and it saved lives."
Mayor Bobby Dyer admonished the crowd to think long-term. "This is not a short-term effort. We are going to be resilient and we are going to do what we need to do to make a terrible wrong right."