VIRGINIA BEACH — Virginia Beach employees went back to work Tuesday at their campuslike municipal complex, many girding themselves for their first official day back after one of their colleagues shot and killed 11 co-workers and a contractor who had come to take out a building permit Friday afternoon.
“I feel numb and hypersensitive,” said Sarah Deal Jenkins, a deputy city clerk. “My nerves are a little on edge.”
She was not alone. Men and women clutching bags, backpacks and purses walked slowly to their offices as the workday began, many waiting until five minutes before the official starting time. Some bowed their heads in prayer.
“I’m hanging in there,” said Debbie Spivey, a receptionist in the city attorney’s office. “It’s just devastating, and I’m numb.”
She recalled Tuesday that she had left her receptionist job Friday at 4:09 p.m., just before the lockdown, unaware of the shooting. She didn’t know what had happened until her phone blew up with calls, including from her boss, who had to know exactly where she was.
“This has touched me immensely,” Spivey said. She knew six of the employees who were killed.
At the municipal complex Tuesday morning, a growing makeshift memorial included flowers and 12 crosses to honor the victims. Building 2, where the shooting occurred, is closed indefinitely.
Michelle Bailey-Pittman, 39, an accounts payable clerk, made it as far as the bench outside Building 1 before she had to stop and call a colleague to walk her inside her workplace of 19 years.
“This always felt like a safe place to me,” she said.
Her desk window faces the Building 2 parking lot. At 4 p.m. Friday, her mother, a retired city employee, was bringing two of Bailey-Pittman’s children to her office when they got caught in the lockdown and were ushered into another building.
“We were all hiding out. When we were in here, I was scared for my life,” Bailey-Pittman said. “Now I’m going through a round of guilt.”
She added: “We pay the bills for all the departments, and you work with people from everywhere. On Saturday, to be quite honest, once I heard all the names of the people I knew on that list, I did literally nothing.”
She went to church Sunday and was comforted to see other city employees there.
“I’m so grateful I was able to go home to my family, but there are all these other families who don’t have their,” she began, her words trailing off as a friend approached.
They hugged long and hard, then walked slowly up the stairs to their building and paused for several minutes. But it was nearly 8 a.m., starting time, and they had to go to work.