ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — Community religious leaders gathered Sunday to remember 24-year-old reporter Alison Parker and 27-year-old cameraman Adam Ward, the two television journalists who were shot and killed while working last week.
The interfaith service at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke 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 as a tag-team 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 be back hard at work.
“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 Smith Mountain Lake when Vester Lee Flanagan walked up and shot them and 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. He died hours later.
Ward’s funeral will be Sept. 1 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.