Wreath laying marks 5 years since Capital Gazette shootings

A wreath-laying ceremony on the fifth anniversary of the Capital Gazette shooting. (WTOP/John Domen)
It’s been five years since a gunman opened fire inside the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.

It was a life-altering moment for numerous people, and at a Wednesday service honoring the five people who lost their lives, friends and relatives spoke about finding hope, happiness and love again, even as they continue to be haunted by what happened.

Five wreaths were laid next to the five pillars of the Guardians of the First Amendment monument that faces the water on Compromise Street in downtown Annapolis. The five pillars stand tall in honor of John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Rob Hiaasen and Gerald Fischman.

The daughter and grandson of Winters laid one wreath against a pillar. Another was laid by those who escaped a hail of bullets through the back door.

“I remember it every day. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about what happened to me and my co-workers,” said Paul Gillespie, a photographer who narrowly escaped the shooting and is one of the few who still works for the newspaper.

Gillespie said events like the wreath laying, and the conversations he has working around Annapolis, help him cope through each day.

“I can’t believe it’s been five years,” he added. “The time has gone both slow and fast, if that makes any sense.”

During the ceremony, Andrea Chamblee and Maria Hiaasen both spoke strongly about the increasing amount of gun violence plaguing the country, and what they believe should be done to stop it. They also talked about the difficult journeys they’ve traveled since losing their husbands in the 2018 shooting.

“So much love has found its way back into our lives,” said Chamblee. “New babies, new jobs, new marriages. We will always miss the people we lost, but happiness, joy and appreciation haven’t given up on us.”

Hiaasen also spoke to the friends and relatives of the three people shot to death in Annapolis earlier this month, some of whom gathered at the memorial too.

“My heart aches,” she said. “But I’m here to tell you that strength, love, patience and time do make things better. It is a journey.”

But, she admitted the month of June has also gotten harder now, compounded by the fact that Wednesday is also her birthday. She made clear the grief still impacts her and her family.

“We talk. We cry. We laugh, and … we have hope,” she said.

But with the metaphorical wounds still fresh after a man opened fire on six people earlier this month, some of the ceremony’s most powerful words came from Christian Segovia, Sr., whose son was among three people who died in that shooting.

“There is nothing you can say to the families that can console us,” said Segovia, who said he struggles to explain what happened to his 6-year-old grandson, who wonders how his father can be everywhere, but is no longer seen.

“Now I can tell you I feel your pain, all of you,” he later added, talking to those connected to the Capital Gazette shooting.

Friends and relatives wore special shirts honoring the victims, and before and after the ceremony, Gov. Wes Moore spent several minutes speaking with them.

“I was happy two weeks ago. But my son left us with a 6-year-old and a baby on the way, and they will be the reason of my happiness again,” said Segovia. “How many more tragedies, senseless acts of violence with extreme consequences, do we need to have for this to stop?”

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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