by Cassidy Lawson
Last Wednesday morning at approximately 6:45AM, JMU lost a precious alumnus, Alison Parker. I’m sure all of you have heard or seen the dozens of news broadcasts that have been all over the Internet for the past week about this horrific incident. On the morning of August 26th, the WDBJ 7 station in Virginia was filming a local broadcast at Smith Mountain Lake with reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward. During the middle of the broadcast, a gunman (a previous WDBJ7 employee) shot both Alison and Adam dead, while injuring the woman being interviewed. I can’t express to you the emotions I felt when I watched the live video of this happening. There were gunshots, screams, and the pure shock and confusion of why this was all happening. I’ve found it really hard to process the fact that these two local newscasters are just…gone.
This past week was 1787 Orientation, the one week of the school year at JMU dedicated to our first year students getting acclimated to campus. I can’t even imagine being a first year student stepping onto campus and learning that a bright, beautiful girl who graduated in 2012 from JMU…has died. Since everyone has been so busy with move in and classes starting back, our campus hasn’t had a chance to officially grieve yet. Everyone is grieving in his or her own way, but our campus vigil isn’t until this Wednesday morning. Our institution’s president, Jonathan Alger took a moment during the First Year University Welcome to address Alison’s death and say to all the first years, “JMU as many of you all know, is more than a university, we are a family…and as many of you may have heard on the news, earlier today, we lost one of our recent alums in a tragic shooting near Roanoke.” As he explained the situation further, the whole Convocation Center fell silent as thousands of Dukes took a moment of silence for Alison’s untimely death. I know that this event will not only be apart of these first year’s Orientation experience, but it will follow them throughout the rest of their time here.
It’s hard enough losing a student while they’re still enrolled at our institutions, but it’s just as hard losing an alumnus after they’ve graduated and were showing the world how their education was helping to change the world. Alison was truly a shining star while she was an undergrad at JMU; she was in a sorority (Alpha Phi), a Media Arts and Design major, and completely dedicated to our JMU student newspaper, The Breeze. Alison brightened the local news with her charming personality and Duke Dog pride every day that she reported a story. It is tragic and unfair and so awful that she and Adam were taken from this world so soon. On a positive note, a memorial fund has been set up in her honor by the University and in under a week has already raised over $25,000 dollars to help students with scholarships in the JMU School of Media Arts and Design. If you would like to contribute a gift, please do so here http://www.jmu.edu/news/2015/08/29-parker-memorial-fund.shtml . I’m attaching the quote that was on my calendar this morning as I sat down at my desk. “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others”. How fitting that this is the quote that started my Monday when that is exactly how Alison and Adam lived their life.