A television reporter and photographer were shot to death on the morning of August 26, 2015, while they were reporting live on air. Reporter Alison Parker, cameraman Adam Ward and a woman whom they were interviewing scrambled to take cover as an unknown gunman, later identified as former WDBJ on-air reporter Bryce Williams (real name Vester Lee Flanagan), opened fire during their live shot. Station management later confirmed Parker and Ward were killed in the shooting. Their coworkers at WDBJ are mourning their loss. This screenshot is a still from the actual interview that Parker (at left) was conducting around 6:45 a.m. and that Ward was filming. Interviewee Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce was also injured in the shooting. She had surgery and is recovering. -- Text from AJC/Cox Media Group and WDBJ.com
A month after WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were shot and killed on live television, Vicki Gardner has spoken out about her experience as the lone survivor in a situation that shook America.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, Gardner told Cooper, “I’m very thankful to be here.”
Gardner, 62, is the executive director of Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. Parker and Ward were interviewing her at Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, Virginia for the approaching 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake.
“My heart goes out to their families and everyone that loved them,” said Gardner of Parker and Ward.
Parker and Ward were targeted by Vester Lee Flanagan II, a former reporter at WDBJ who went by the name Bryce Williams. Flanagan was fired from WDBJ in 2013 on
terms of disruptive conduct. He stated that his motive for killing the television employees was based on previous instances of racial discrimination he claimed he experienced in interactions with Parker and Ward.
In regards to her own condition, Gardner says she’s improving. After being shot in the back, she has undergone multiple surgeries, losing her kidney and part of her colon in the process.
But Gardner is happy to have her life. She says she thought Flanigan was going to shoot her in the head.
“I am the luckiest person in the world,” she told WDBJ.
When asked by Cooper if she knew what was going on once Flanagan started firing bullets, Gardner answered, “yes and no.”
“It was very very fast,” she said. “When (Adam) was hit, I immediately-- without necessarily thinking-- I dropped to the ground exactly when he did. I basically was in a fetal position, and I played dead,” Gardner added.
Despite the difficulty of enduring the tragedy, Gardner told Cooper that she watched video of the shooting that had been broadcast on television.
“It was hard to watch, but I want to know what happened,” she said.
Gardner, whose daughter is a teacher, also expressed sadness about the shooting that took place at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon on Oct. 1.
“That is sick,” she said. “Where does it end?”
Gardner is working to develop Vicki’s Vision, an idea to create a central gathering place at Smith Mountain Lake to honor Parker and Ward.
Read the full statement she released to WDBJ here.