WDBJ anchor: ‘We will bounce back, we won’t forget’

Posted at 1:16 PM, Aug 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-27 22:01:22-04

Jeff Marks, the general manager of WDBJ stood outside of the station Thursday morning praising his crew and letting fellow media members know how they're doing in the wake of tragedy.

"It's not easy and it's not going to be easy for a long, long time," he said.

Two of Marks' employees, 24-year-old reporter Alison Parker and 27-year-old photographer Adam Ward were shot and killed Wednesday morning during a live television interview near Smith Mountain Lake. The woman they were interviewing, Vickie Gardner, was injured and hospitalized.

Parker was a James Madison University graduate and dating a fellow anchor at the station. Ward was a graduate of Virginia Tech and engaged to a producer at the station.

The WDBJ news team is grieving the loss but has also showed great courage, fortitude and commitment to their profession.

"We have a job to do and that's to inform the public and at the same time honor the memory of our colleagues," Marks says.

As friends and coworkers of Alison and Adam grieve their losses, they've also shared memories and stories about the two.

"She lifted the room because she was so positive. She was very ambitious. She wanted everything just right," said WDBJ political analyst Robert Denton of Alison.

"He was a very happy person. You love politics, he loves sports. He loved anything hockey. Such a wonderful, positive attitude," Denton said of Adam.

Marks says despite the tragedy, his team has a job to do.

"What choice do we have? Do we have the choice to shut down? To shrink inside of our shell... it's unthinkable. The community depends on us just as they do at WTKR," he said.

And he says that's exactly how Alison and Adam would have wanted it done.

Marks and Kelly Zuber held another conference later on in the day.

They were wearing ribbons, maroon for Virginia Tech to honor Adam and teal for Alison; it's her favorite color.

They say at the moment, they do not have live teams out in the field nor did they do so yesterday.

Zuber talked about how tough things were inside of the Newsroom when the tragedy hit.

"I have the greatest news team, love each and every one of them and they have performed so well. I have watched people crying in the newsroom and then get on camera," says Zuber. "It's those little things that are getting to us now. I lost it when I saw his car in the parking lot and saw clothes in there. They cry, they hug, and then they get the job done."

The general manager says they've had church services, flowers food, hundreds of emails and he says his voicemail is full.

"We work very hard to reflect our community, diversity does not refer just to race," says Marks.

Marks also spoke briefly about the man police say are behind the killings, Vester Flanagan, a former reporter at WDBJ.

He was terminated from the station two years ago.

He says Flanagan was placed on a final warning for failing to check his facts before he was actually terminated. He says Flanagan brought up some concerns to Human Resources that were unfounded. Marks says Flanagan confronted an anchor about his stories.

"He reacted angrily, telling them they would have to call the police because he was going to make a stink," says Marks.

He says they sent Flanagan to an employee assistance program.

"I don't think we identified he had a mental health issue; we identified performance issues," says Marks.

On Thursday, police released a search warrant which showed what authorities found in Flanagan's vehicle.

Among the items found were a Glock, iPhone, six Glock magazines, 9mm ammo, handwritten and typed letters, a backpack, seventeen stamped letters, a briefcase with three license plates, wig , shawl, umbrella and sunglasses, a to-do list, black hat and a  bag with supplies inside.

Zuber talked about the producer, who was engaged to Ward. She saw the whole thing happen and has been trying to grapple with it all.

"Adam's fiance is obviously in tremendous grief. It's bad to see your fiance shot; it's worse to be the producer of the show. We are going to wrap our arms around her," says Zuber.

Marks says they are taking the time to deal with this but they are committed to doing their jobs.

"We march together, putting one foot in front of the other, mourning our loss, never forgetting Alison and Adam knowing they died in the line of duty," says Marks. "We are committed to the hard stories and the stories that make this area special. We learn, we go forward."

A WDBJ reporter, Nadine Masear, is best friends with Adam's fiance, Melissa.

"She just summed it up as 'I'm numb. I don't feel anything. I lost my best friend,'"says Masear. "These are friends. They're colleagues. Newsrooms are a tight knit place. You know you work in news. We all work together odd hours, you're standing out in snowstorms, you get to know one another."

NewsChannel 3 also spoke with anchor Kimberly McBroom who was on the set when Adam and Alison were killed.

"I think in our hearts, we knew it was bad. But until you get that confirmation, you don't know and you're holding on to hope," says McBroom.

Another anchor, Jean Jadhon says the best way to honor Adam and Alison is to do what she says they know best--journalism.

"We just go on and try to do great journalism as they did every day and honor their memory in a positive way and try not to focus on the horrible way their lives ended. I think news people are resilient. We will bounce back. We won't forget," says Jadhon.