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A Virginia TV station observed a moment of silence on air Thursday morning for its two journalists who were killed in a shooting during a live interview the day before.
Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward’s colleagues at TV station WDBJ had saved their tears for off the air. The news became personal for the CBS affiliate in Virginia when the two were fatally shot during a live broadcast Wednesday morning by a disgruntled former colleague. Parker’s boyfriend appeared at the station where they both worked, telling his co-workers and viewers that he wants to tell his girlfriend’s story even as he grieves.
Here’s how yesterday’s carnage in Virginia unfolded, and how the victims’ loved ones and TV station colleagues are grieving.
‘THE PERFECT COUPLE’
The station began its 5 a.m. newscast Thursday with an image of Parker and Ward with the words “In Memory.” Just before the moment of silence at 6:45, the time of the two journalists' death the day before, anchor Kim McBroom joined hands with weatherman Leo Hirsbrunner and anchor Steve Grant, who came in from sister station KYTV in Springfield, Mo., to help the grieving station.
Station anchor Chris Hurst, Parker’s boyfriend, recalled on air how Parker’s voice could light up a room with its kindness and joy, and how excited she was about her work, including an upcoming piece on hospice care. “Alison, what great things she could have done,” Hurst said, adding that he will take a brief break from his anchor role.
McBroom, who had been on the air the day before when the two journalists were shot, told Hurst that he and Parker “were like Barbie and Ken — just the perfect couple.” She also read a statement from Parker’s family, her voice faltering.
A grief counsellor also joined the WDBJ-TV newscasters at the anchor desk. Counsellor Thomas Milam said it’s important to respect that people grieve in different ways and give them space to do so. He also said it’s important to comfort children who may have seen coverage or had their schools on lockdown.
The station also reported that scholarships have been set up in the two journalists' names at their respective schools.
‘WITH HEAVY HEARTS’
The family of the gunman also issued a statement offering condolences to the victims’ loved ones. The statement from the family of Vester Lee Flanagan II, who went by Bryce Williams as an on-air reporter, was read on several TV stations, which said it was released by a family representative.
‘THEY WERE PART OF OUR COMMUNITY’
Parker and Ward worked as a team for the station’s Mornin’ show, a timeslot where many broadcast journalists get their start. They covered everything from breaking news to stories about child abuse.
Like young journalists across the country, the pair was eager for a story, champing at the bit to cover big news and active on social media. In Roanoke, the nation’s 67th largest media market, Parker and Ward were also something else: hometown kids who became local celebrities. “They grew up in this area,” Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton said. “They were part of our community.”
Parker was a highly motivated reporter who was perhaps destined to be a network anchor. She was proactive and good at making connections that help boost a reporter’s career. “She was wise beyond her years. She was just dedicated. She lived and breathed news. You don’t find that every day,” said Ashley Talley, who was assistant news director at WCTI-TV in New Bern, North Carolina, when she hired Parker right out of college.
Ward played high-school football and was a devoted fan of his alma mater, Virginia Tech. He was engaged to producer Melissa Ott, who watched the shooting unfold from the control room. Her last day was supposed to be Wednesday because she had accepted a new job at a station in Charlotte, N.C.
THE SHOOTING: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
-reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27
-the two were conducting an interview with development official Vicki Gardner at a shopping centre, not yet open for the day, in Monenta, Va., on Wednesday morning
– shooting began around 6:45 a.m.
– the two journalists were pronounced dead at the scene
– live on-air footage carried the journalists’ horrified reaction as the gunman opened fire
– hours after the shooting, someone claiming to have filmed it posted video to a Twitter account and on Facebook by a man identifying himself as Bryce Williams; both videos were removed shortly afteward
(Shane Dingman: Video raises questions about social media’s role)
– police identified the suspect as Vester Lee Flanagan II
– Flanagan had been fired by the station in 2013
-in a fax to ABC, Flanagan called himself a gay black man who had been mistreated by people of all races, describing himself as a “human powder keg”
– on Twitter, Flanagan described workplace conflicts with both of his victims: he said Parker had made racist comments and that she was still hired after he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and that Ward had reported him to human resources
– the suspect was chased by police on a nearby highway
– he was cornered by police in a rental car before shooting and killing himself