VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Three days after 12 people were gunned down at the city's sprawling municipal complex, workers who returned gathered on the lawn for a prayer and moments of silence to honor those who were slain.
Most offices at the complex remain closed and some entrances were still surrounded by police barricades and squad cars. Building 2, where the shooting occurred, was quiet. It will be shuttered indefinitely as the investigation continues.
Many workers wore blue as they had been urged to do to show solidarity. Some murmured about what a beautiful day it was and remembered those who were killed. Others didn't speak, instead simply putting an arm around a colleague. Flags were at half-staff.
On Friday morning, DeWayne Craddock - an engineer for the city's water and sewer systems told his bosses in an email that he was resigning. Hours later, he killed 12 people with two .45-caliber pistols and died after a gun battle with police.
Alveta Green, who works in the complex where the shooting happened said it still felt surreal.
Green is in charge of student support services for the Virginia Beach, Virginia, school district and trains staff to handle all manner of crises and trauma.
On Monday morning, Green was bracing herself not only to supervise the psychologists and counselors deployed across the city to aid returning students and teachers, but also to help her own co-workers who had found themselves at the heart of a crime scene the last time they went to work.
Building 6, where the school administration is housed, was one of the few buildings in the municipal complex where staff returned to work on Monday. Others will be back on Tuesday.
The Building 6 staff gathered on the lawn with black memorial ribbons pinned to their blue shirts and dresses. During a performance of the national anthem, a Christian prayer, a speech by the superintendent and 12 moments of silence, well over 100 returning workers silently embraced one another, and clasped hands while they cried.
Karin DiMaggio, the coordinator of psychological support services for the school district, said she would be alert to the need for support within her own office. "We lean on each other. We're a very close office," she said.
Nancy Liette, who works in purchasing for the school district, was carrying out her own form of therapy on the lawn as workers returned. Her dog, Nala, underwent training as a therapy dog two years ago, and Liette normally takes Nala to nursing homes on weekends. Today, she brought Nala to work. A few co-workers hugged Liette and thanked her; most went straight down to the dog's level to tousle her golden fur.
On Friday, Liette was huddled with some of these same co-workers, avoiding windows and sending urgent text messages to their families when they were alerted to an active shooter in Building 2. When she reentered Building 6 on Monday, she was glad she had Nala by her side. "I think it's helping me as much as it's helping anybody else."
Authorities identified those killed as Virginia Beach residents Michelle "Missy" Langer, Ryan Keith Cox, Tara Welch Gallagher, Mary Louise Gayle, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Katherine A. Nixon, Joshua O. Hardy and Herbert "Bert" Snelling; Chesapeake residents Laquita C. Brown and Robert "Bobby" Williams; Norfolk, Virginia, resident Richard H. Nettleton; and Powhatan, Virginia, resident Christopher Kelly Rapp.
Marisha Clark, who lives across the street from the complex where the shooting happened, said she spent the weekend trying to figure out how much to explain to her kids - ages 7 and 11 - about the incident.
"I will never get that out of my mind: My 11-year-old running into the house, shouting, 'Mommy, there's a mass shooting,' " Clark said.
After she dropped her kids off at school on Monday, she went to the complex.
"I needed to be out there. To go pray. If someone needed a hug, I wanted to be there."
Outside of Building 6, she found a table full of brightly painted rocks, with paint markers for writing messages that will eventually go into a community rock garden. "Keith Cox, Never Forget," someone had written on one. "Laquita Brown," someone had written on another, with a drawing of the sun and waves. One said, "Peace that defies understanding."
Clark took a yellow rock, and held it in her hand for a long time. "We're not strangers. We're community at this point. We are all hurting. We are really hurting," she said.
She wrote in capital letters on the rock, simply: LOVE.