On August 26th, viewers watched in horror as WDBJ Reporter Alison Parker and Photographer Adam Ward were gunned during a live shot.
The killer was an ex-employee of the station.
Although time has passed, the two are not forgotten in the newsroom. Morning anchor Kimberly McBroom says that some days, she shows up to work and expects to see Adam Ward making his usual rounds of the WDBJ news set, laughing loudly, chatting with co-workers and picking on the weatherman. Other times, she thinks she sees Alison Parker out of the corner of her eye, only to realize it’s somebody else walking past her cubicle.
And it hits her all over again. They’re gone. “It’s the little things that remind you of them,” said McBroom, longtime anchor of Channel 7’s “Mornin’ ” news program.
The Roanoke Times writes that the station has provided assistance, from bringing in counselors and crisis experts to increasing security and changing the way it plans live remote broadcasts.
Perhaps just as importantly, the station’s employees have bonded as a family, McBroom said.
“There’s a deeper affection among all of us,” she said. “People ask each other how they’re doing. We give more hugs. We’re proud and still strong after everything. Doing our jobs is the best way to honor Alison and Adam. But there’s no precedent for what we’re supposed to do or feel. There’s no guidebook. We’re pressing on as best we can.”
WDBJ Anchor Chris Hurst agreed that the little things can be the most poignant reminders. Hurst’s grief has been more public than that of his co-workers. He and Parker had moved in together just a few weeks before she died. They had talked about marriage.
Hurst said that the past month has been a tough time. He “hit a wall,” he said. Earlier this week, while reading a news story on his phone, an ad appeared for the Netflix series “House of Cards,” a show he and Parker loved. The ad “sent me over the edge,” Hurst said.
Reminders of Parker and Ward are all around the station’s headquarters just off Hershberger Road. The makeshift memorial that arose near the entrance to the parking lot, where people brought flowers and signs in the days that followed the shooting, still bears a few weathered reminders from the terrible day.
A sign near the parking lot marks where “the future home of WDBJ’s Alison and Adam memorial site” will be erected.
Visitors who are allowed past the station’s locked front doors are greeted by a framed poster that bears pictures of Parker and Ward.
Viewers still send sympathy cards and letters. A man in South Carolina, who had never heard of WDBJ before Aug. 26, sent the station a likeness of Parker and Ward he had built with Legos, based on a selfie photo of the pair that Parker had snapped not long before they died.
Many of the employees wear maroon-and-turquoise ribbon pins in memory of the two. The memory of Parker and Ward is never far away.
“So many things just catch you off guard,” said Kelly Zuber, Channel 7’s news director. “It’s all still very close to the surface for all of us.”
She added: “My conclusion has been that you’re stronger than you think you are and you’re not as strong as you think you are. It’s a paradox.”
The station’s managers and staff were counseled by Patrick Prince, a California consultant and former police officer who specializes in dealing with companies that have experienced workplace violence. Prince would not talk specifically about his work with WDBJ, but in general his company helps people work through anger, sadness and other emotions that accompany a tragedy.