Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, were young journalists at WDVJ7-TV in Roanoke, Virginia. They had a huge future in the industry and were each in relationships–both also worked at the station.
But their lives were cut short when Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, also known as Bryce Williams, who also worked at WDVJ7-TV but was fired in 2013, shot them at close blank range in the middle of an interview. Flanagan was gay and after the shooting faxed a 23-page document to ABC News explaining that his shooting was a response to racism, sexual harassment and homophobia at work.
“Yes, it will sound like I am angry… I am,” writes Flanagan, “And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace…The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”
Flanagan wore a video camera while he shot his ex-coworkers to death, and later posted it on Twitter and Facebook under the name Bryce Williams. It was later taken down.
He shot himself while being chased by state police and died at the hospital a couple hours later. It was during this chase that he posted the video.
Flanagan had worked in local TV stations for the last twenty years. He interned at CBS station in San Francisco from 1993 – 1995. In 2000, he sued a Florida station that had fired him, alleging racial discrimination.
But Jeff Marks, the G.M. of WDBJ7-TV confirmed what the letter might suggest: “Vester was an unhappy man,” he said in a newscast. “He had a reputation for being difficult to work with. [He was fired] after many incidents of his anger coming forward.”
Flanagan was escorted from the building by the police on the day he was fired from WDBJ7-TV.
This story has so many levels it’s hard to believe it’s true. Flanagan felt angry and claimed to be a victim many times over of sexual harassment, racism and homophobia. Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter. He isn’t a victim of anything but cowardice.
As a writer and reporter myself, it’s hard not to feel connected to this story in a reverent way. To use social media as a tool to promote murder and to further inspire other “angry” people to do the same is not something to be proud of.
We’re all angry at some point in our lives. There are moments when we feel like the only person alive, that no one hears us, and that not a single human being cares about our wellbeing. The truth of the matter is that a major part of life is to eventually overcome this anger and realize it’s not really anger—but loneliness.
Loneliness is the number one reason for suicides and self-mutilation in this country. Not having someone to speak with or feeling like no one cares undoubtedly creates a need to prove oneself—to make a mark in the world somehow.
We love our guns in this country, but to a lonely desperate man it can be a tool to right an imagined “wrong” in his life propagated by hatred. It’s time we stop not only guns, but the anger that fuels their consequence.
If there is anyone reading this who feels angry at the world, please, don’t take the same route as Mr. Flanagan. Nothing will ever be resolved should you choose to give in to anger.
He was a coward because he let anger win—you’re not a coward.
You have hope to overcome anger and pain to become a hero.
Reach out to someone and tell him or her about your struggles. Anger is a form of tension—release it in healthy ways rather than letting it build into resentment. Resentment is going to lead to hate, which will make you want to retaliate.
Anger isn’t something you want to let grow. Don’t become a victim of your own thoughts and emotion. Trust me, it’s not worth it.