Thursday, August 27, 2015
Yesterday, August 26, 2015, feels like Roanoke's 9/11. Sitting outdoors with my first cup of coffee the air was as crisp, and the sky was as clear as that fateful Tuesday morning fourteen years ago. I went inside for my second cup, turned on my computer, checked Facebook and couldn't believe what was plastered all over my wall...a local news team from WDBJ, reporter, Alison Parker, and her cameraman, Adam Ward, had been shot while reporting live on air as Alison interviewed Vicki Gardner at Smith Mountain Lake. Ms. Gardner had also been shot, survived, and is presently in intensive care. Alison and Adam died in cold blood.
Just like I did on 9/11, I immediately called my husband. In 2001, as we spoke on the phone we both watched in horror as the second airplane crashed into the Twin Towers. This time we had notice -- my daughter storming through her bedroom door, crying, "Do not watch the video!," -- so knew not to subject ourselves to watching in horror as the young news team were assassinated. And as if it wasn't bad enough that morning news viewers saw the actual murder from Adam's camera, the killer also taped it from his own cellphone or GoPro, and later posted the video along with some tweets on social media. I won't even mention the sociopath's name as I do not want to glorify the angry, racist, sociopath, on my blog.
If I'm not mistaken, Adam was the last one the murderer shot. He also was the one who caught the killer with one frame. Bravo Adam...you were a pro to the bitter end. That your fiancé had to witness it from the control booth, live, with the rest of the Roanoke Valley, breaks my heart. What a cruel scene.
And the beautiful and talented 24 year old Alison, (who reminds me so much of my daughter) was also cut down doing what she loved. During a piece featuring her fiancé, anchor Chris Hurst, he remarked how yesterday was the happiest he thought she had ever looked. Cut down. Just. Like. That. That's not supposed to happen here in Southwest Virginia.
Unlike the failure that was the killer, both Alison and Adam were professional journalists. Because they were pros they probably would ignore anyone in the corner of their eyes as they conducted live interviews. Folks tend to get up close and personal when someone has a camera. Sometimes they want to be in the shot, or photo bomb the shot. Trained pros go into a zone and focus on the story at hand, not the distractions. In Baltimore during the riots, one might be more attuned to the danger surrounding them, but at a sleepy lakefront, so early in the morning, not so much. Because they were pros, it wasn't until the shot rang out that they realized this was no fan.
When I worked as a videotape editor with ABC News during the Gulf War, it was almost expected that some sort of tragedy might befall the on-air talent and fellow journalists who brought us wartime news from Afghanistan and Iraq. Never did. You don't expect this type of tragedy to happen while reporting a feel-good story by the local lake. And yet, it did.
Reporting during wartime from a dangerous location while under the largest market's umbrella, producers are usually on site with the talent and camera person. In small town local news, having a camera person is almost a luxury as more and more digital reporters have to be a one-band show. Wherever they're reporting from, and more than often it's a place where I wouldn't want to be, journalists put their lives out there. Unfortunately, they do not get the credit or acknowledgement they are due until a crazed lunatic cuts them down.
In a small town such as Roanoke, the local news personalities are thought of as friends who we invite into our living rooms at the end of the day, or into our kitchens as we're preparing dinner. We see these folks not only behind the camera, but in the supermarkets, at the museums, in restaurants, on the greenway, in the schools, and everywhere else we travel in the valley. Whether it's through just a nod of the head, a shy hi, a hearty hello or a warm hug, we became, or always were, friends. When we lose a friend through such a horrific way it's hard to grasp. Even though yesterday was a bright sunny day there was a shroud over the Roanoke Valley and it still hangs heavy today. The sadness was/is felt on every mountain and in every valley. I feel numb just like I did the day after 9/11, and I don't know if it's because I was once in the news industry, or because my daughter is now in the news industry, or, if we all feel this way.
Alison and Adam had tens of thousands of friends they might have never even met. Their families' loss is unimaginable. Their friends' loss is unimaginable. The Roanoke Valley's loss of innocence is all too real...