On Wednesday morning, a gunman opened fire on two reporters from local news station WDBJ7 in Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. Now, the national mourning and reflection on the tragedy begins.
Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were both killed. Smith Mountain Lake Regional Camber of Commerce Executive Director Vicki Gardner, who was being interviewed at the time of the shooting, was also shot, but is currently in stable condition at a nearby hospital.
Suspected shooter Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, a former employee of WDBJ7 who went by Bryce Williams on air, shot himself after a confrontation with police.
Update 1:21pm CT, Aug. 26: Flanagan has died from self-inflicted injuries, according to local authorities, Vice News reports.
While the manhunt for Flanagan was ongoing, social media accounts using the name Bryce Williams published video of the shooting to Facebook and tweeting about the incident. As the media rushed to cover the alleged killer’s online trail, the social networks that played host to the video rapidly tried to erase it.
In their place, Twitter users have adopted a trio of hashtags honoring the lives of the victims. The hashtags #RIPAlisonParker, #RIPAdamWard, and #RIPAlisonAndAdam have quickly served as rallying points for people trying to express regret and come to grips with the tragedy.
#RIPAlisonandAdam you feel safe at work. your guards were down because why wouldn't they be? This was SO unfair. 24 and 27 years old.— michelle visage (@michellevisage) August 26, 2015
Sad world we live in! #RipAlisonandAdam my deepest condolences to your families.— IG:DjArc [Hey-R-C] (@IamDjArc) August 26, 2015
The entire journalism community is in shock this morning. #RIPAlisonandAdam— Kim Fischer (@KimFischerNews) August 26, 2015
We stand with our fellow journalists and mourn the loss of two of our own. #RIPAlisonandAdam— Dave Goren (@Dave_Goren) August 26, 2015
Twitter users celebrated the lives and accomplishments of the victims.
A discussion around the news outlets’ decision to publish video of the shooting taken by the suspect also coalesced around the hashtags.
Most of tweets touching the subject pushed for the media to refrain from posting the video, both for its gruesome nature and that is gives the alleged shooter precisely what he presumably wanted—attention—instead of putting the focus on the victims.
As occurs when any mass shooting breaks into the national consciousness, many people used the hashtags to call for increased gun control.
If you're against some sort of gun reform, then you should be forced to watch that clip until you change your mind. #RIPAlisonandAdam— Adam D. (@AbundanceAdam) August 26, 2015
They didn't know it, but they will be a catalyst for change. Let's just stop this. #RIPAlisonAndAdam— Alyssa Palermo 🤗 (@alyssa_palermo) August 26, 2015
Illustration by Max Fleishman