Service pays tribute to slain television reporter, cameraman
by Daily Sabah with Wires
ISTANBULSep 01, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with Wires
Sep 01, 2015 12:00 am
Community religious leaders gathered Sunday to remember 24-year-old reporter Alison Parker and 27-year-old cameraman Adam Ward, the two American television journalists who were shot and killed while working last week.
The interfaith service at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke, Virginia, was filled with somber prayers across several religions, along with music from the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and others. The ceremony, attended by about 500 people according to Christie Wills, a spokeswoman for the interfaith group that organized the event, began with a slideshow of the WDBJ-TV journalists wearing warm smiles as they worked together on stories.
In his remarks, WDBJ-TV General Manager Jeffrey Marks recalled that Parker and Ward were almost never angry. Marks said he suspected that the most you would get out of Parker was an "emphatic ‘darn,'" and then she would go back to working hard. "Adam and Alison saw that as their mission – to awaken us to what is good and fun in life," Marks said. Marks also talked about better prioritizing mental health treatment. "Mental illness cannot exist on the periphery of health care," Marks said. "It should be obvious that it needs to be center stage because most mental illness is treatable if we can get to the sufferer. In this case, we didn't."
Ward and Parker were on an early morning assignment for WDBJ-TV at the Smith Mountain Lake resort when Vester Lee Flanagan walked up and shot them along with Vicki Gardner, a Chamber of Commerce official, with a 9mm Glock pistol during a live interview. Ward and Parker died at the scene and Gardner is recovering in a hospital. The shootings occurred as thousands of viewers across the central Virginia community watched the footage quickly spread to millions on social media. Flanagan shot himself as police pursued his car, and he died hours later.
Ward's funeral will be on Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Roanoke. Parker's obituary says after a private memorial service, a celebration of her life will happen at a later date.
Meanwhile, the parents of Parker said they will dedicate their energies to fighting gun violence in America. "I plan to devote all of my strength and resources to seeing that some good comes from this evil," Parker's father Andy wrote in Sunday's Washington Post. "I realize the magnitude of the force that opposes sensible and reasonable safeguards on the purchase of devices that have a single purpose: To kill."
Mass shootings in the United States – from the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, to June's slaying of black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina – regularly prompt widespread hand-wringing about easy U.S. access to guns. None of the tragedies, though, has led to any significant new gun laws. "In recent years, we have witnessed similar tragedies unfold on TV: The shooting of a congresswoman in Arizona, the massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut and of churchgoers in South Carolina," Andy Parker wrote. "We have to ask ourselves: What do we need to do to stop this insanity? In my case, the answer is: ‘Whatever it takes.'" He said he would focus attention on state and national legislators who are responsible for America's "criminally weak" gun laws.
Andy Parker and his wife Barbara have appeared in several interviews in recent days announcing their plans to campaign for gun control. The U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment – enshrining the right to bear arms – is defended tooth and nail by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the main U.S. gun rights lobbying group, which has been successful in blunting drives to restrict weapons sales.
On average, about 32,000 people die in firearm-related incidents every year in the U.S., which has more firearms in private hands per capita than any other nation. Most of those deaths are suicides, with homicides and accidents accounting for the remaining fatalities.