On-air shooting survivor makes 1st public comments

Flowers at WDBJ following journalist shootings

The woman who survived an on-air shooting that killed two TV journalists in Virginia says the gunman never said a word.

In her first public comments since last month’s shooting, Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce executive director Vicki Gardner spoke with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren in an interview broadcast Tuesday night.

Gardner said that while being interviewed on live TV Aug. 26, she was paying attention to the camera but noticed something down the walkway.

“I just saw movement and then gunfire. Lots and lots of gunfire,” Gardner said. “From that point it was very chaotic.”

Vester Flanagan walked up and opened fire, killing WDBJ-TV cameraman Adam Ward and reporter Alison Parker. Both died of gunshot wounds to the head and body.

Gardner thought she was next.

“I realized it was quiet and everybody was down. And I didn’t know where (Flanagan) was,” Gardner said. “I felt as though the next shot – I knew – the next shot he was just going to shoot me in the head because that was what he was doing.”

Gardner said after the initial shots, she instinctively dropped to the ground and got into the fetal position, pretending to be dead.

As he moved about, Flanagan was “very silent” and didn’t speak, Gardner said.

The gunman returned and shot her in the back.

“Had I continued to stand, I would not be here talking to you,” she said.

Flanagan fatally shot himself five hours later after a police chase.

Gardner said she thought a bullet had gone through her spine and she would be paralyzed. But that didn’t happen. Doctors removed a kidney from Gardner and part of her colon. She was released from a Roanoke hospital Sept. 7.

“I’m happy to be here,” she said.

Gardner said although she has watched video of the shootings, it’s too soon to return to the scene at the Smith Mountain Lake Visitor Center.

“Why save me and take them?” she said of Parker and Ward. “But obviously there’s a purpose – and by golly I will fulfill it.”

On Monday night, Parker’s boyfriend, Chris Hurst, returned to his WDBJ anchor job for the first time since the shootings, wearing a striped tie that Parker gave to him on Valentine’s Day.

“I know the answer to what we all must do – it is to profess love, not hate,” Hurst said.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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