On Aug. 19, 2015, Alison Parker turned 24. One week later, the morning reporter at WDBJ in Roanoke, Va., was shot dead, along with cameraman Adam Ward, on live TV no less. The shooter then uploaded his own video of the murders on Twitter. It was a dark day in our country’s history, one many of us remember.
I will always remember where I was when I heard about the shooting. It was a Wednesday morning. Carroll County News was still located in that pink building just a couple minutes from Walmart. As soon as I got to work, I made a cup of coffee and checked my email. It was a normal day –– the same as any other Wednesday.
Except it wasn’t a normal day. That became apparent when I checked news alerts and saw Alison and Adam’s smiling faces. “Virgina reporter, cameraman shot dead,” the headline read. “Newswoman’s death caught on camera,” another said. A tear fell into my coffee cup.
That night, I watched all the news coverage of the event. Most of the stories covered the lives of Alison and Adam –– how they lived, not how they died. Alison loved whitewater kayaking and Mexican food. Adam loved football and McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches. They both loved their partners, who happened to work at the news station with them.
Adam’s fiancee, Melissa, was actually celebrating her last day at the station when the shooting happened. Adam intended to leave the station with her. Before they headed to Smith Mountain Lake for the live shot, Alison brought balloons to celebrate Melissa’s last day. Alison’s boyfriend, Chris, was a news anchor at the station. They were dating for nine months and hoped to get married someday. Unfortunately, that day will never come.
We’ve had plenty of well-documented shootings in America over the past few years, but something about this tragedy got to me. I’m not sure if it’s because it was caught on camera or because Alison and Adam exuded such natural charisma. Just through photos, you can see how passionate and kind they both were. I especially felt a kinship with Alison, who was my age, worked in the media and was just beginning to establish herself in the world.
We were both at the same place in life, but for some reason, her life got cut short. I’ve often wondered why it had to happen to her. Though she was already important in her neck of the woods, she had the potential to make a mark on the whole world. She had a spark you can’t deny. She was going to be big. It is heartbreaking to know that opportunity was taken away from her.
The murders reignited the gun control debate, as most publicized shooting do. Lots of people psychoanalyzed the shooter and poured over the manifesto he wrote explaining why he did what he did. I’m a huge proponent for gun control, but that’s not my first thought when I think about the murder of Alison and Adam.
Instead, I think about two people who were just beginning their lives. They had family, friends and pets. The had plans for the future, immediate and long term. Alison was looking forward to going to a Taylor Swift concert in October, but she never made it there. She and Adam aren’t too different from any of us, if you think about it.
We all have plans, and we all fully expect to make them happen. We don’t expect to get shot dead on a normal day at work. We don’t expect to make a mark on the world through death. But that’s what happened to Alison and Adam, and it could happen to any of us.
Today, Alison would be 28 and Adam would be married. They had lives to live and plans to keep. I hope you remember their lives with me this week.
Alison and Adam, this one’s for you.