“She Made Me Smile Like No One Has Ever Made Me Smile”

Photo: Steve Helber/AP Photo.
Despite the terrible heartbreak of losing a loved one to gun violence, the boyfriend and father of Alison Parker, the 24-year-old Virginia television reporter killed by a former coworker on live TV Wednesday along with 27-year-old cameraman Adam Ward, took time to commemorate their family member and her colleague, as well as express their love for her. "We need to continue to honor Adam and Alison’s life for as long as we are here. We will not stop honoring their lives, and it will continue, and we are thankful now that there is an opportunity in death for them to be remembered across the world forever for the bright, shining lights that they are," Parker's boyfriend, news anchor Chris Hurst, told Good Morning America on Thursday. Hurst also appeared on Roanoke's WDBJ7, the same news program Parker was reporting for when she was killed, to share some memories. "Alison would want me back doing what we want to do," Hurst said. The relationship lasted only nine months, but they had just moved in together and were planning to get married. Their love "burned white-hot for only a short matter of time," he said, "but it was a kind of love that I was so privileged and lucky to have that I need to share that with everyone to tell people that even if that gets taken away from you after a short time, it exists." More details have emerged about the early-morning shooting, and about Vester Flanagan, the gunman who died Wednesday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Flanagan had been fired from the television station where Parker and Ward worked in 2013. He had also been ordered by the station to seek out medical treatment in 2012 after several coworkers complained about his behavior. Flanagan said in a 23-page document he faxed to ABC News in New York that he was a "powder keg" and that he had been harassed at the station. The station found complaints he made while he worked there to be unfounded. Parker's father, Andy, also spoke to Fox's Megyn Kelly on Wednesday night. He vowed to make it his "mission in life" to get gun-control legislation passed, and to shame legislators who put political concerns over the thousands of lives that have been lost to gun violence. "Alison was only 24 years old, she turned 24 a week ago, yet she lived a great life. She excelled at everything she did, she loved what she did, loved the people that she worked with, was happy with her place in life," Andy Parker said. "I only take some solace in the fact that she had a wonderful life and was extremely happy and she loved [Hurst]. Everybody that she touched loved her and she loved everybody back." "The problem that you guys [in the media] have," Parker told Kelly, "is that next week, it isn’t going to be a story anymore and everybody’s gonna forget it."
One person who has remained more private is Ward's fiancée, Melissa Ott, a producer at WDBJ, who watched the shooting unfold live from the control room. Wednesday was her last day at the station; she and Ward were moving to Charlotte, NC, so Ott could take a new job. In a horrible twist of fate, Ward was planning on quitting the news business, the New York Daily News reported. And if watching the love of your life die on camera weren't tragic enough, one of Ott and Ward's coworkers tweeted Wednesday night that Ott's wedding dress had arrived in the mail that day. "Today, my entire world was flipped upside down," Ott wrote in a Facebook post. "Starting new adventures with my fiance, new jobs, a new city. Getting married, having a family, buying a home. Thats now taken. Im not ok. And I wont be for a long time. But the enormous outpour of love and support from so many of you near and far is so much appreciated." The horrific shooting in Virginia will lead to more conversations about guns and mental illness, the power of the NRA, and how social media changes the way we experience tragedy. But the people that loved Alison Parker and Adam Ward will also have to find a way to honor the memory of the two young people they loved so much. “She made me smile like no one else in this world has ever made me smile," Hurst told NBC News, "and I don't think will ever be able to make me smile."

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