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St. Patrick's Day A Year Later

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 16/03/2016 Andy Parker

St. Patrick's Day is a day that most associate with revelry and celebration. In years past, our family would do the usual stuff--wear the green, eat some corn beef and cabbage, and wash it down with some nice cold brew. This year is different. There is no merriment. For me it is an anniversary that represents lost hopes and dreams.

Alison had been the morning reporter at WDBJ7 in Roanoke, VA for almost a year and during that time had numerous opportunities to fill in on the anchor desk. She had the part down and always delivered. She had been dating Chris Hurst, the evening anchor for the station, for about three months and it was clear by the time March rolled around that they were smitten with each other. They had kept their relationship quiet, but most of their close colleagues knew about it.

For years WDBJ7 has hosted a live broadcast of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Roanoke. Management asked who wanted to emcee the event, and Alison immediately volunteered. Chris did likewise and there they were on Saturday, March 14, 2015 cohosting the telecast. Barbara and I watched and grinned as Alison worked the crowd and the parade participants with the over-exuberance of a young journalist trying to add excitement to an event that changed little from year to year. What I later learned is that for all her typical composure on camera, she was very nervous. Not because she was doing something new, but because she so wanted to do well for Chris. It was nervousness born of love and professional competitiveness. She wanted to prove her worth and make him proud. She accomplished both. It was the first and only time they ever appeared together on camera, and they went out celebrating afterwards, figuring there would be many more parades and stories to cover together in the future.

This past Sunday, Barbara, Chris and I were featured on a CBS Sunday Morning piece entitled "Guns in America". Unlike all the other media interviews I have done over the last six months, I had planned to watch this until I got the head's up from Jay Kernis, the producer, telling me there would be parts I probably would not want to see. He was correct and based on the recap I heard, I'm glad I did not watch it. After the piece aired, I got an email from Erin thanking us for our time and effort. She said every time she looked at Alison on camera, she was reminded of how much we lost. The camera she said, only captures a fraction of a person's personality she could only imagine her true power and what we are all missing by not seeing her grow as a journalist. I thanked her for her kind words and told her that while I could not watch the piece, I know Alison, the consummate journalist would have approved. She knew what it contained while devastating to me, would be essential to the story.

Alison's was a great story teller, whether it was about a pot-bellied pig or a meth lab bust. It's what made her a journalist and not just a reporter. I miss her stories. I miss her at the parade she should have been covering this year. I look at the screenshots of Chris and Alison last year, smile, then descend into heartbreak knowing that it can never happen again.

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