Dozens gathered in Annapolis, Maryland, on Friday to mark the anniversary of the shooting massacre inside the Capital Gazette newsroom, and to honor the five employees slain that day.
Loved ones and colleagues were among those who came to Acton Park, a place that victim Rob Hiaasen was known to frequent when he needed a break from journalism’s daily grind.
Under the summer sun, they all watched as a garden was dedicated to Hiaasen and the four others killed in the newsroom on June 28, 2018: Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.
“It’s a place where people come for a quiet moment to think about things,” said Rick Hutzell, the Capital Gazette’s editor in chief. “And so, in the future when you have time, come here when this crowd is gone, when the cameras are gone, when we’re gone and our words are long forgotten. Come here and think about what these five lives meant.”
The six staffers who survived the attack were to unveil the memorial plaque in that ceremony. Instead, they called up everyone who helped fulfill the Capital Gazette’s daily mission just hours after the shooting.
They included Chase Cook. That reporter vowed in a tweet that they would put out “a damn paper” that day.
“I’ve always said it was 50% defiance and 50% news,” Cook said Friday of that tweet. “Because I imagine the question that people asked that day was, ‘Well, will they print the paper tomorrow?’ And it’s because of the work of my colleagues … with me that day that we were able to do that. And that tweet was definitely a check that we could cash.”
Earlier, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that Friday would be “Freedom of the Press Day.”
Cook said such recognition was nice, “but I think what motivates me and I think what motivates my colleagues is the work that we do.”
While the victims’ colleagues carry on that work, Andrea Chamblee is finishing up a side project by her late husband. “The Capital of Basketball,” McNamara’s book about how the area helped nurture the sport, will be released Nov. 3.
“It’s the last promise I can keep for John,” said Chamblee, wearing his favorite media credential. “He really wanted to be remembered as a sportswriter, and I want him to be remembered for how he lived and for his life’s work, at least as much as for how he died. And I’m hoping this book will keep that promise.”