Time and space: Mass shooting victims’ families issue statements; injured woman now in ‘fair’ condition

(Southside Daily/ Courtesy of Virginia Beach Police Department)

VIRGINIA BEACH – Officials here said the families of the victims of Friday’s mass shooting at Building 2 of the Municipal Center have requested privacy, but are “are grateful for the outpouring of condolences and support.”

“They are requesting time and space to process the loss of their loved ones,” officials said.

At least two of the families of the victims have issued statements through the city:

(Southside Daily/ Courtesy of Virginia Beach Police Department)

The family of Bobby Williams

“Our beloved husband, father and PopPop was a private man of few words. We feel the best way we can honor his memory would be for everyone to allow us to grieve our loss in the same way.  We would ask that members of the media please respect our wishes and allow us to grieve in private with our family and friends. Thank you for respecting our wishes and the precious legacy of a wonderful man.”

Mary Lou Gayle’s children — Matthew Gayle and Sarah Leonard

“Fiercely protective mother. Proud Grammy. Loving sister and aunt. Everyone’s best friend. These are but a few fitting descriptions of Mary Lou Gayle.

Her nurturing spirit and protective nature extended beyond her own children. She loved people and they loved her back. It’s no surprise, as our Mom consistently sacrificed her own needs and desires to help others. She was a strong person with even stronger opinions. About everything. You might say she nagged us. It took many years, but we finally realized she was usually right, and we learned to lean on her wisdom.

The pain we have felt these last few days would have been much harder to bear if we had not been surrounded by the love and care of so many of Mom’s colleagues and friends, at least a dozen of whom introduced themselves to us by saying, “I’m your mom’s best friend.”  We get it. Somehow, she always found time for others while holding down a full-time job, going to school, raising two children on her own, volunteering at her church, and doing all sorts of DIY projects around her home. Mom would do anything she could to help others but was stubborn about being completely self-reliant. Even in her sixties, she refused to allow us to hire someone to replace the deck in her back yard. Instead, she learned to use a power saw and a nail gun so she and Matthew could do it themselves.

Our Mom was a single mother with an Associate’s degree when she began her 24-year career at the City of Virginia Beach as a Legal Secretary in the City Attorney’s Office. Through hard work and perseverance, she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and completed a rigorous certification process to become a Right of Way Agent. She thrived in her role with the City, through which she facilitated the purchase of land for development by the City. She worked hard to get where she did but despite her many accomplishments, she remained humble and reserved her pride for her children and grandchildren.

Her grandchildren, Jeffrey and Genevieve, were the “lights of her life” and she would report to friends that she was “in Grammy heaven” whenever she was able to spend time with them. Just two weeks prior to her death, she spent a week caring for them while Sarah and her husband traveled for business. Typical for her, she took the children to numerous activities and events while also finding time to “clean” Sarah’s (already clean) house, stock the refrigerator, replant the garden, outfit the kids with new wardrobes, and iron all of Sarah’s husband’s dress shirts.

When our lives carried us away from Virginia Beach, Mom waged a decade-long campaign to get us to move home. She sent job postings and listings of homes for sale in the neighborhood that were conveniently right up the street or around the block from her house.

Mary Lou Gayle was a kind, warm, funny, giving, and loving woman who made this world a far better place just by being here. Our hearts go out to the other families who lost loved ones on Friday and we remain beyond grateful for the support and kindness we have received.”

Patient

Melanie Coffey (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Sentara)
Melanie Coffey (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Sentara)

One of the four injured, Melanie Coffey released this statement through Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. She is now in fair condition.

“I want to offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Virginia Beach police officers who intervened and EMS volunteers who helped get everyone they could to safety. You are heroes who serve our community every day and I am grateful for your service.

To my friends, family members, coworkers and the City of Virginia Beach, who are offering compassion and support, I thank you. Your encouragement is helping me prepare for the next steps in recovery from this terrible crime.

I want to thank the skilled and caring professionals with Sentara hospitals and Nightingale, who helped save my life and continue to care for others.

I am just one person affected by this tragedy in our community. My hope is for courage and determination as we heal together.

I need to focus on my family and my healing and I request privacy during this time.”

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.