I take pride in using my blog posts as a place to be vulnerable, honest and truthful with you. And being honest about that fact is the only way I know how to begin. It’s possible I have nothing beautiful, poignant or wise to share. I’m not sure I even have the right to say anything while others at this exact moment are living such unspeakably dark realities. But I write and share my thoughts with you on this blog, and I have the nagging feeling that’s what I must try to do today.
I woke up about an hour before my alarm Wednesday, and rolled over to see what time it was. For some reason, I decided not to grab the sleep mask I keep in my night table drawer, put it on to block the sun and roll back over to keep sleeping. Instead, I reached down to where my work phone was charging, and I scrolled down on the notifications that accumulated while I slept. I do this every day. On Wednesday, a sickened, gaping, pitch-black hole developed in my stomach and in my heart. Head still to the pillow, phone close to my face, I began to cry.
I posted to Facebook calling this the "worst news to wake up to." I turned on CNN. I call my mom every day at some point, usually around 11 a.m. But once my mom saw I had posted on Facebook and was awake, she called me at 10:05. "Hey," I said, my voice as broken as I was beginning to feel. "I just needed to hear your voice," she said.
The murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live television was a tragedy for everyone. It was an unbearable tragedy for their families, an extreme tragedy for the station, and yet another gun-related tragedy for the nation. But it was a particular type of tragedy for moms and dads of multimedia journalists, who so acutely understand the perils of the public profession their children have chosen. I want to devote the least amount of text possible to the gunman in this blog post, but I have to say at this time in the morning, we weren't yet sure who he was.
I don't mean to diminish the severe pain the WDBJ7 newsroom is feeling, but I want to be honest about one reaction I had. "It could've been my market, it could've been my newsroom, it could've been my live shot," I said. I was crying, using a sort of emotionally-charged voice I can't recall the last time I used to make sound. My mom told me all of these thoughts went through her mind as well. We took pauses of inhales and sobs. We didn't say too much. I told her I would call her later, and with the rest of the country, I continued to watch details unfold in real-time on Tweetdeck and cable news.
As I watched, a few things occurred to me. Firstly, the tremendous grace, strength and beauty with which the WDBJ7 news team carried on, and carried each other, throughout the day. If I said one thing most yesterday, it's that I don't know how they did it. I just don't. A lot of the ache I felt was for them. I cannot underscore that enough. I ached for Alison Parker's boyfriend and Adam Ward's fiancée, both employees at the station. I ached for the General Manager who with such solidity put a team on his back, let his humanity shine through, and simply, managed. I ached, so deeply, for their families, now eulogizing two talented, young people they so tremendously loved in a way no one should have to, and far too soon. It occurred to me how much trust we place in the public every day when we head out into our communities to bring you stories that night. We stand on street corners, we approach people outside grocery stores and in large crowds, we work in our cars in parking lots at night. And it wasn't even one of these potentially dangerous situations that led to the horror we watched play out yesterday. It felt unfair, I felt angry, I felt devastated and helpless. And I knew this stream of emotions was happening to journalists all across America, too.
You get into this industry and make any number of sacrifices. You work odd hours, you pack up and move to new places with new faces every two years for a while, you skip meals to make deadlines, and you do it all in the name of putting feet on the street to contribute valuable news coverage to the community. But those in the industry also know it is full of some of the best people there are. You can tell because affiliate stations have sent staff and offers to help the WDBJ7 team with coverage in the coming days. Perhaps that's why it broke us all to know yesterday, two of them, journalism's very own, were brutally and calculatedly taken. You get into this industry because you love and revere live television for the medium it is. The events transmitted over airwaves yesterday are not, and should never be, what live television is for.
It was tragic because reporters are in that position every day. Live shots are a staple in your newscasts. Here's what's happening now, and we know because our reporter is there to show you. Of course, reporters are vigilant when they're out in the field and during live shots. You come to expect someone might run behind you, catch you off guard or even do something that disrupts your live shot entirely. But there was no reason to suspect what happened yesterday should have happened during a 6:45 a.m. hit on local tourism and a beautiful lake.
It was tragic because there are Alison Parkers and Adam Wards in newsrooms across this nation. They are full of talent and life, passion and fervor, and lastly, promise and entire careers ahead of them. I know because I work with them, I love them, and as close friends and family have been quick to point out, I am one of them.
I end this post the way I began it: not quite knowing what to say. In the days, months, and years to come, I wish healing, peace, closure, celebration and only the best memories to Alison Parker and Adam Ward's families and loved ones. I extend it to the local reporters in the Roanoke market who will be reporting the aftermath of the murders of their friends for months to come. I am in awe of the beautiful and powerful way the community has rallied together, and I wish we must absolutely never do it again.