Alison Parker, Adam Ward, Virginia shooting victims, remembered fondly
Fellow workers at CBS affiliate WDBJ7 recall a 'radiant woman' and a 'go-to guy'
Television reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, who were shot to death during a live broadcast near Roanoke, Va., were remembered Wednesday as bright young journalists with promising futures.
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Both had started out as interns at CBS affiliate WDBJ7 and were planning to marry co-workers.
"I cannot tell you how much they were loved," WDBJ general manager Jeff Marks said during a sombre broadcast paying tribute to the two. Station employees could be heard crying in the background.
"These two were more than what you saw here on TV. They were much, much more," anchorwoman Kimberly McBroom said.
From the bottom of our hearts thank you all so much for the calls, flowers, emails, and messages of love and support. <a href="http://t.co/a34rVH7QES">pic.twitter.com/a34rVH7QES</a>—@WDBJ7
Fellow journalists from across the world were also paying tribute to the two using the hash tag #WeStandWithWDBJ.
Read more about Parker, Ward and Vicki Gardner, the woman who was being interviewed on WDBJ and was also shot and who is recovering in hospital:
Parker had just celebrated her 24th birthday and had recently completed a special report on child abuse for the station.
She was born in Martinsville, Va., and attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where she was an editor at the school's newspaper, The Breeze. Her strengths in school were math and science and she had planned on being a doctor or pharmacist before turning to journalism.
At WDBJ, she was known as a reporter with boundless energy who excelled at her job and could tackle tough topics but also had a less-serious side. Her Facebook feed was punctuated with funny videos and photos of her smiling, ear-to-ear, often while on assignment with Ward.
According to her Facebook page, she spent most of her life in the Martinsville area where she was an avid kayaker and attended community theatre and other arts events in her spare time.
In a promotional video she did for WDBJ, she said the "most thrilling" thing she had ever done was take a trip to the Grand Canyon with her family and ride horseback down the canyon.
She enjoyed the arts and the outdoors. She played trumpet and french horn in high school and, according to her promotional video, loved Mexican food.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WDBJ?src=hash">#WDBJ</a> employees remember shooting victims as "special people" who could "brighten up a room" <a href="http://t.co/C6ZIGkQiAP">http://t.co/C6ZIGkQiAP</a> <a href="http://t.co/DT5xg7Zm09">pic.twitter.com/DT5xg7Zm09</a>—@CBSNews
"The spicier the better," Parker said in the video.
WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst said he was in a relationship with Parker for the past nine months but the two had not shared it publicly. In a series of tweets, he said he and Parker "were very much in love."
He said they had just moved in together and wanted to get married.
"I am numb," he tweeted.
"She was the most radiant woman I ever met. And for some reason she loved me back. She loved her family, her parents and her brother."
Hurst said the two had been whitewater rafting in North Carolina last week to celebrate Parker's birthday.
Alison and Adam always had a fun time together. Here are some behind-the-scenes pictures. <a href="http://t.co/bglHxG2jXC">http://t.co/bglHxG2jXC</a> <a href="http://t.co/X74EflXqlz">pic.twitter.com/X74EflXqlz</a>—@WDBJ7
She was known by co-workers as bubbly and smart and someone who took quickly to her job, working her way up to full-time reporter and substitute anchor by her early 20s. When colleagues suffered personal hardships, she would console them or bring food or flowers to their door, they said.
Her father, Andy Parker, 62, told the Washington Post Wednesday: "My grief is unbearable. Is this real? Am I going to wake up? I am crying my eyes out. I don't know if there's anybody in this world or another father who could be more proud of their daughter."
Ward, 27, graduated from Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va., and was engaged to a producer at the station, Melissa Ott.
WDBJ spokesman Mike Morgan said Ott was watching the broadcast when the shootings occurred. She was about to move to a new job in Charlotte, N.C., and Wednesday was her last day at the station.
Ward was expected to move with Ott and the two had been planning their wedding, according to WDBJ.
"Adam was our go-to guy," Morgan said. "He pretty much was available to do anything that we asked. He did live shots during our morning show for several years."
Anchor Chris Hurst described Ward as a "doting fiancée" and a "guy who everybody genuinely wanted to be around."
Ward worked frequently with Parker. Hurst said they were out in the field nearly every day together, working as a team.
"For him and Alison to both be gone is unfair," Hurst said in a special tribute to the two that aired on WDBJ Wednesday evening.
REMEMBERING: WDBJ photographer Adam Ward was 1 of the nicest people you could ever meet. Always friendly & smiling. <a href="http://t.co/BrkraZhsmq">pic.twitter.com/BrkraZhsmq</a>—@KLOVEREPORTER
Ward, who grew up in Salem, Va., was described by colleagues as fun-loving and reliable.
"He proved himself to be just a fine photojournalist, and the kind of guy who [when he] was on his way home from work and heard about something breaking, he would just turn around and go do it," said Marks in the station's on-air remembrance of Parker and Ward.
"There were a lot of good things happening for Adam," said anchor McBroom.
Jay Webb, a former meteorologist at WDBJ, said Webb "was the kind of guy you wanted to be around, especially at three in the morning."
Ward had played football at Virginia Tech and remained a devoted fan of the Hokies, his former team, rarely missing a game.
"He was quite a talker, and he loved sports and politics," said Robert Denton, head of the communications department at Virginia Tech, who handed Ward his diploma when he graduated in 2011.
"You could not be around him and not have a wonderful conversation."
At the time of the shooting, Parker was interviewing Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. Gardner was shot in the chest and underwent surgery in hospital.
There will be a prayer vigil for Vicki Gardner at 7 PM. at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Moneta. <a href="http://t.co/WRrQwhCjpu">pic.twitter.com/WRrQwhCjpu</a>—@WDBJ7
A spokesman for the health-care organization that administers the hospital where Gardner is being treated said she was in stable condition.
Gardner was being interviewed about events celebrating the 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake, for which she was a passionate advocate, according to WDBJ.
According to her LinkedIn page, Gardner has been with the chamber since 2002. She also sat on the boards of various local organizations and had been interviewed on WDBJ many times.
CNN reported that the chamber's chairman, Troy Keaton, told media Gardner was "an exceptional bright light in this community."
"We stand with her 100 per cent and are praying for her and are thankful that she is in stable condition and is in good hands," he said. "We just want her to know, and this community to know, that Vicki has been a champion for us for more than a decade."
The Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau also tweeted best wishes for Gardner's recovery.
Vicki Gardner is a very close friend of the CVB & Virginia's Blue Ridge. Hoping for a quick recovery! <a href="http://t.co/xGwHVHHNSf">pic.twitter.com/xGwHVHHNSf</a>—@visitvbr
A prayer vigil for Gardner is to be held at 7 p.m. ET at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Moneta. Va.
With files from Reuters, The Associated Press