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In Virginia Beach, ‘the grieving begins’ after mass shooting

As authorities continue searching for clues into Friday's mass shooting inside the Virginia Beach Municipal Center that killed 12 people, many in the community are trying to make sense of the rampage. NPR correspondent Sarah McCammon joins Megan Thompson from Virginia Beach to discuss how residents are coping.

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  • Megan Thompson:

    Joining us now on the phone from outside the municipal building in Virginia Beach is NPR correspondent Sarah McCammon. You're not just reporter reporting from Virginia Beach today, you are a resident. I mean as somebody who lives there how is the community doing today?

  • Sarah McCammon:

    You know people respond to these shootings in sadly predictable ways these days. There are so many of them. And as I've talked to a couple of folks to kind of get the pulse of friends and strangers as well, there's a lot of what you might expect honestly. Shock that it happened here. Just devastation and need to process that, a feeling of numbness. A relatively small group of people gathered for a vigil this morning. One hundred people or so according to a colleague of mine. But there will be more of those that you know obviously this just happened and people are I think just trying to make sense of it.

    At the same time you know driving through the community today, things were almost, I don't know, sort of disturbingly normal. There was a carnival going on in my neighborhood, it looked sparsely attended but it was still going on. My son's scout troop was still meeting. Things are ordinary in a way because this has become so ordinary in America, sadly.

    But at the same time it's on everyone's minds and people are thinking about this, talking about it, reaching out to one another to see if everyone's OK and now that the names of the dozen victims have been released I started to see social media posts and things from friends and loved ones remembering the people who died yesterday.

  • Megan Thompson:

    This happened in a government building. I mean what do we know about security there? I know that the suspect was an employee but did he have to get through metal detectors or anything like that?

  • Sarah McCammon:

    My understanding is that this building is used for offices, that a lot of engineers worked there, some accountants, administrative assistance that kind of thing and also a place where people would come to to deal with sort of day to day rather mundane city paperwork — things like filing for permits. In fact, one of the victims was a contractor who was there at the building to file for a permit.

    Officials say it's a place that the public is welcome and the public uses it is it is in part an office building but also a place where residents of Virginia Beach come to just do day to day business. And again this man was an employee so he would have had as much access as anyone as an employee.

  • Megan Thompson:

    And where does the investigation go from here? I mean what else will investigators be looking for?

  • Sarah McCammon:

    Well I know they've spent the past 24 hours or so going through the crime scene. A scene that the chief Jim Cerverer here described as like a war zone. And I know they've found some additional weapons they say but they've looked at the crime scene they've also looked at the suspect's home and found some some additional weapons.

    But going through the crime scene just taking an inventory of what happened, searching in every nook and cranny to try to gather whatever evidence they can. And of course, the victims have all been identified but that was much of the work of last night was identifying those victims, notifying their family members.

    And now of course the grieving begins.

  • Megan Thompson:

    All right. NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thank you so much for joining us.

  • Sarah McCammon:

    Thank you.

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