VIDEO: Congresswoman Elaine Luria Remembers Virginia Beach Shooting Victims in House Floor Speech

June 4, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02) this morning spoke on the House Floor to honor and remember the Virginia Beach shooting victims lost last Friday. Later today, she will lead a moment of silence on the House Floor.

Video of Congresswoman Luria’s speech is here, and her full remarks can be found below.

I rise today grieving for Virginia Beach, a great city in our district where the year’s most devastating mass shooting happened last Friday.

That morning, 12 innocent people left their homes for work. But they didn’t return home to their families, and they never will.

Eleven of them were devoted public servants with more than 150 years of combined experience, and one was a dedicated contractor. I am honored to remember them today.

Laquita C. Brown, a right-of-way agent who lived in Chesapeake, was an avid traveler who chronicled trips to New York City, Europe, and West Africa. A friend of hers called her “Ms. Worldwide.” Her 40th birthday was coming up in November.

Ryan Keith Cox, an account clerk who lived in Virginia Beach, had a “golden voice” and sang in his church choir. He had recently accepted his own calling to the ministry, to follow in the footsteps of his father, Pastor E. Ray Cox, a friend and the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church. During the shooting, Keith guided colleagues to safety, but did not join them so he could look out for others.

Tara Welch Gallagher, an engineer who lived in Virginia Beach, educated the public about clean water and served her city for six years. Tara’s survivors include her husband and 22-month-old son. Her husband told a reporter: “She was everything to me.”

Mary Louise Gayle was a right-of-way agent who lived in Virginia Beach. A proud grandmother, she had just turned 65, and her children planned to take their mom to Portland later this month to celebrate her birthday.

Alexander Mikhail Gusev, a right-of-way agent who lived in Virginia Beach, moved from Belarus to seek a better life in America. He was a generous and thoughtful person who was said to grab his lawnmower and cut his neighbor’s lawn without even being asked.

Joshua O. Hardy, an engineering technician who lived in Virginia Beach, was a loving uncle. A healthy eater and runner, he smiled on the job and found time to write a beloved children’s book that spoke to youth about “strangers in their midst.”

Michelle “Missy” Langer, an administrative assistant who lived in Virginia Beach, loved the Pittsburgh Steelers, Paul McCartney, and the ocean. A friend said: “I will miss her smile and her hugs. That’s the hardest thing.”

Richard H. Nettleton, an engineer who lived in Norfolk, helped design, install, and maintain Virginia Beach’s water and sewer systems. An Army veteran, he enjoyed mentoring young engineers.

Katherine A. Nixon, an engineer who lived in Virginia Beach, was a devoted wife and mother to three daughters, one of whom is just 15 months old. According to her neighbor, her final call was to her husband, just moments after she was shot.

Christopher Kelly Rapp, an engineer who lived in Powhatan, played the bagpipes and loved Scottish music. Compared by some to Mr. Rogers, he was known as encouraging and enthusiastic.

Herbert “Bert” Snelling, a contractor who lived in Virginia Beach and was visiting the Municipal Center for a permit, led his church’s security team. In his work, he did everything from small handyman repair to building homes.

Robert “Bobby” Williams, a special projects coordinator who lived in Chesapeake, worked for Virginia Beach for 41 years. He helped build the sea wall in our city and planned on retiring this year to spend more time with his family.

The losses here will never be replaced. But so many heroes emerged to prevent further horror.

Over the weekend, I saw heroic first responders — police, fire, and EMS personnel — who ran into the line of fire to save others before comforting our community in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy.

As the hours and days go by, we hear tens if not hundreds of stories of the heroism of individuals who helped save lives during this tragic event, including the officer, among the first responders, who in the performance of his duties took a bullet to protect our community, and was by the grace of God saved by his protective vest.

I saw unbelievable bravery at Sentara Hospital, where Sunday I had the honor of visiting a survivor of the shooting. She clasped my hand as I stood at her bedside, and her strength and resolve were palpable, as she had only narrowly come away alive.

I saw love and hope at heartfelt vigils across our community where people of all faiths joined in prayer to remember those who left us all too soon. 

I saw strength among our city leaders and police chief as they addressed our grieving community— determined to remember the 12 we lost far too soon.

Those who knew the victims are making statements that we need to hear.

Bert Snelling’s neighbor told a Virginian-Pilot reporter: “It’s the world we live in now, and it’s a shame.” A friend of Missy Langer’s told The Washington Post: “This kind of stuff has got to stop.” Another friend said: “She didn’t deserve to die like that.”

None of them did.

This is a moment where doing nothing is no longer an option.

To prove that point, all we have to do is look at the first responder who ran into the building and took a bullet to protect his fellow citizens.  To him, it was never an option to not act.

If there is a lesson that we take out of this tragedy, all we have to do is look at him. 

We must run into the building together. We must act.

Thank you.

Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.