Virginia TV Station Remembers Victims Of Wednesday's On-Air Shooting

Aug 27, 2015
Originally published on August 27, 2015 10:18 pm
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Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Journalists are used to covering tough and sometimes tragic events. It's different when your colleagues are the story. TV reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman Adam Ward were shot and killed yesterday while doing an interview at a popular local tourist attraction. The event played out on live TV and later for millions of people on social media. NPR's Brakkton Booker is in Roanoke, Va., to find out how employees at the station are coping.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: The opening broadcast for WDBJ anchor Kimberly McBroom was like none her station had ever done before.

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KIMBERLY MCBROOM: Good morning. It is just after five o'clock on Thursday, August 27, 2015. We come to you this morning with very heavy hearts. Two of our own were shot and killed during a live shot yesterday morning.

BOOKER: Not 24 hours ago, she sat in the studio and watched her colleagues gunned down while doing a live interview. Leo Hirsbrunner is McBroom's usual studio buddy. He does the morning weather, and it was hard for him to be on the air too.

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LEO HIRSBRUNNER: I don't even know how to do weather on a day like this. Every morning, Adam always came into the weather center, and he would say, Leo, what's the weather going to be for his live shots with him and Alison? And I'd say, how do I know? I don't know anything about the weather. And then we'd all laugh, and he goes on his way. And he wasn't here this morning, so that's kind of a change there.

BOOKER: They took turns throughout the broadcast sharing stories and memories of their slain colleagues, Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Hirsbrunner described Ward as having a big personality. Ward would leave candy wrappers on the set to see if he could throw Hirsbrunner off his game. The station brought in a guest anchor today too - Steve Grant.

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STEVE GRANT: Our hearts are broken with yours and certainly we're here to do everything we can to help you get through this.

BOOKER: Grant works at another station in Springfield, Mo. He read the news copy having to do with the man authorities say killed Parker and Ward - Vester Flannigan. Flannigan was a reporter at the station and was fired in 2013. Today, no media were allowed inside the WDBJ Studios. Though, there were lots of reporters outside, all hoping to interview any of the station staff who wanted to talk. Chris Hurst remarkably did. He's an evening anchor and was Parker's boyfriend. He had with him a scrapbook she made for him after being together six months.

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CHRIS HURST: It's something I would not have done on my own. I had no thought in my head to do it, and she did it for me. And if I didn't have this right now, I don't know what I'd be doing.

BOOKER: Hurst and Parker moved in together. He said they had only been together nine months, but their love burned white-hot. Now, Hurst says, he wants the world to know how beautiful she was.

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HURST: She called us the cutest, newsiest, prettiest couple ever, and I believe it. And we were going to get married. She died at her happiest. I can tell you that. I was talking with her parents last night, and we believe that.

BOOKER: Near the entrance of the station, a makeshift memorial was set up. Well-wishers left handwritten notes on Bibles and that said, we stand with WDBJ, and balloons with messages that said, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing).

BOOKER: At a church today a few miles from the shooting site in Monita, people gathered during the regular Thursday service to honor and remember the victims.

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing).

BOOKER: Dozens of people sang and offered prayers and listened as the Reverend tried to make sense of what happened in this tight-knit community. Brakkton Booker, NPR News, Monita, Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.