Just hours after their two colleagues were gunned down during a live television broadcast, the staff of Virginia station WDBJ remembered Alison Parker and Adam Ward as lively, hard-working professionals during special broadcasts on Wednesday night.
Parker, 24, and Ward, 27, were shot dead hours earlier while reporting for WDBJ's morning news program in Moneta, Virginia. Vicki Gardner, who was being interviewed by the news team, also sustained gunshot wounds and was listed in stable condition after undergoing surgery.
Authorities say the shooter, former WDBJ reporter Vester Lee Flanagan, committed suicide after the deadly attack.
In evening news broadcasts on Wednesday that balanced remembrances of their slain peers with the latest information on the shooting, WDBJ staff reflected on the "devastation, sadness, and tears."
"An unimaginable day at WDBJ," anchor Jean Jadhon told viewers at the start of the 5 p.m. ET broadcast, which was followed by another an hour later. "Tonight, we want to honor their memories."
"All day people have been teary," Jeff Marks, the station's general manager, told viewers. "They've been hugging, but they've also been doing their jobs as journalists."
"I'm just amazed at the attitude of the folks here that they have an obligation to the public to get the news on and out right, and they're doing it," he added.
In a statement to WDBJ7 on Wednesday, Flanagan’s family expressed their “deepest condolences” to friends and family:
Dear News WDBJ7,
It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we express our deepest condolences to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. We are also praying for the recovery of Vicki Gardner.
Our thoughts and prayers at this time are with the victims’ families and the WBDJ7 NEWS family. Words cannot express the hurt that we feel for the victims. Our family is asking that the media respect our privacy.
The Family of Vester Flanagan
News Director Kelly Zuber said Parker and Ward were "the A team" and had been cut down at the beginning of their lives.
Colleagues remembered Ward as an extremely polite man with a passion for sports, including the various teams of Virginia Tech, his alma mater.
Reporter Danielle Staub said that Parker was beloved by many viewers on her hometown station.
"The community was so excited to see one of their own on their hometown news station," Staub said. "I hope I can make her proud."
"They were the heart of our news team and they can never be replaced," she added.
News anchors said WDBJ would be establishing scholarships in memory of the pair at Virginia Tech and James Madison University, where Parker studied.
Highlighting the global interest in the story, Marks reflected on the "brotherhood" of reporters around the world, noting how he had done interviews with news stations as far as Russia and Australia regarding the shooting.
Many of those speaking on air also took time to thank well-wishers for the outpouring of support.
Each time the broadcast cut to a commercial break, photos of Parker and Ward flashed silently on screen in front of a graphic of a flickering candle.