By Lynn R. Mitchell
Tragedy hit at 6:45 a.m. EDT on Wednesday morning southeast of Roanoke, Virginia, when the WDBJ-7 TV shooting exploded onto news networks and social media. Horrified viewers watched the on-air murders of television reporter Alison Parker and camera man Adam Ward who were ambushed while on a remote live-broadcast location on the shores of Smith Mountain Lake, a popular resort community.
As morning news shows dropped regular programming and reported minute-by-minute updates, law enforcement officials were in hot pursuit of the gunman. The gruesome images along with gripping details rippled out into surrounding communities in the Commonwealth and across the nation as the shooter, a disgruntled fired WDBJ-7 employee, led a chase that began at the lake. It continued to the Roanoke airport where the gunman changed cars before speeding north on I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley.
Listening to the news as it broke that morning, we were snugged in our corner of Augusta County, safely away from the tragedy that was unfolding about two hours southeast of us. Or so we thought.
My Richmond sister Lori and cousins Faye and Sharon were in the Valley to visit for the week. Our plans on Wednesday were to meander and explore the Blue Ridge Parkway from Afton to Peaks of Otter where we would enjoy lunch at the lodge overlooking Abbot Lake and Sharp Top Mountain, and then return home in the evening.
However, before we could leave the house we found ourselves drawn to the TV screen as we watched the horror of the unfolding news. As a result, it was late morning before we left, driving through historic downtown Staunton on our way to I-64, Afton Mountain, and Milepost 1 of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
That was when, while continually monitoring Twitter and Facebook on my iPhone, we saw that the police chase of the shooter had entered our area with law enforcement searching I-64 east to Fishersville and Afton Mountain in Augusta County, and I-81 north to Verona, also in Augusta County. Area schools were on lock-down. We decided to stay on Route 250 as we drove to Afton instead of taking a chance of getting caught up in any kind of police action that could take place on the interstates.