Tragic. Senseless. Inexplicable.
Terror. Hatred. Violent.
All words to describe what happened at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, Building 2, the afternoon of Friday, May 31.
“Life doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t be this way,” said Attorney General Mark Herring in a statement following the murder of 12 public servants at our Municipal Center by one of their peers.
So, that leads us to the inevitable word we are all thinking: “Preventable?”
In a word, no.
I wish I could say that background checks, metal detectors, constant guards, confiscation of all weapons, limiting magazine cartridges, banning silencers, limiting gun licenses, improving mental health, providing counseling or midterm evaluations with employees, more health care, whatever your cause de jour that could explain what happened would prevent what actually happened.
I can’t, and I won’t.
There is only one word for this: evil.
Sometimes we need to really just call things what they are.
This act was not committed by someone affronted.
These murders were not done by someone who didn’t have an opportunity to succeed in life.
This was not an act of some freedom fighter seeking their people’s liberation.
This was done by someone with malice. With boiling hatred. With premeditated destruction solely in mind.
With the calm, cool, and calculating demeanor to resign their post mere hours before committing violence upon the innocent.
Did I mention evil?
This was a self-centered, narcissistic, 35-minute horror show perpetrated with the absence of love.
At this point, I could speculate and begin to wonder what could motivate a person to commit such heinous acts on public servants who are merely trying to keep the water moving and bridges standing, but that would be giving this person way too much credit.
Ultimately, there is nothing government, the gunman’s colleagues, his network, the police, building security and others could have done to keep this man from his diabolical work.
So, if not preventable, why?
In prior columns, I have written about loyalty, love, and personal responsibility.
We cannot see into the hearts of people, but we do know that all people are capable of incredible acts of heroism, compassion, and sacrifice, such as Ryan Keith Cox, the 50-year-old pastor’s son and steady voice of calm who shepherded his colleagues to safety in the face of unspeakable danger that cost him his life.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” — John 15:13.
Cox has rightfully been described as having a servant’s heart. He proved it. So did the first responders who navigated the maze of Building 2 and confronted evil head on.
Unfortunately, just as Cox was in the light, some completely succumb to darkness. We don’t have to look far for examples.
Gov. Ralph Northam noted in a speech calling for a special session of the General Assembly that we lost 1,028 Virginians due to gun violence in 2017. Hatred and anger are at the root of much of this loss.
I don’t fault people for looking for controls to protect themselves and seek safety. The reality is that evil will always try to find a way, and it is always checked by love.
While we lost 12 of our family, friends, and community servants, if not for love and bravery, it would have been more.
And it is love that ultimately triumphs.
Hoeft, a retired Navy spokesperson, hosts The J.R. Hoeft Show, a weekly podcast available via jrhoeft.com. He lives in the Hickory area of Chesapeake.
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