When an Ex-WDBJ employee gunned down WDBJ Photographer Adam Ward and Reporter Ailson Parker, he also shot Vicki Gardner, who was being interviewed by Parker at the time.
Gardner survived the attack and is now ready to get back to work, promoting the place where she was shot.
“[My work] is such a joyous place,” Gardner says of the Smith Mountain Lake in Roanoke, Virginia. “It was right outside my window where this tragedy happened … but that is not defining where I work.
Gardner, who is the head of the lake’s chamber of commerce, was being interviewed by WDBJ when the shooting happened.
They were wrapping up the 6:45 AM interview when Gardner saw a man approaching them over Parker’s shoulder. “I was a little distracted but I was not concerned,” she said. “I was thinking he was going to ask a question.”
“When he opened fire, it was still very difficult to comprehend what was happening,” Gardner said.
With the camera still rolling, the disgruntled ex-employee first shot Parker, then Ward, causing the camera to fall. The WDBJ control room cut to commercial.
Parker, though injured, attempted to run away, Gardner said. Flanagan chased after her, and Gardner instinctively lay still on the ground next to Ward’s body.
After shooting Parker dead, the man returned and shot Gardner once in the back. She said she believed he ran out of bullets, or he would have kept shooting her.
Unaware whether the shooter had left, Gardner waited, not knowing whether help would get to her in time to save her life.
“As I relive this in my mind, was there anything else I could have done that would have made a difference?” Gardner said. “Absolutely not.”
Gardner was hospitalized for almost two weeks and underwent three surgeries. Four months later, Gardner says she feels mentally and physically recovered.
Despite the horrors she experienced, Gardner said she has emerged from recovery looking forward to her life ahead, and grateful for those around her. “I’ve seen the worst that society can do and I have seen the best that society can do,” she said. “And I am so thankful the worst is almost nothing — 99.9% of the population out there is so positive, so helpful.”