ROANOKE, Va. – A father's fight through incredible loss: Since losing his daughter, Alison, Andy Parker has turned tragedy into a crusade for gun reform. This week, he released a book written in her honor, “For Alison: The Murder of a Young Journalist and a Father’s Fight for Gun Safety.”
Alison Parker, 24, and local photojournalist Adam Ward, 27, were shot and killed on live television at Smith Mountain Lake's Bridgewater Plaza in 2015. Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, was the lone survivor of the shooting that day. In January 2019, she underwent surgery to ease some of the pain she suffered from gunshot wounds she received while being interviewed by Alison Parker and Ward. Many watched the horrific shooting unfold on live television.
It is a horrible tragedy that can only be understood firsthand, Andy Parker said. The book is dedicated to everyone who has experienced gun violence. It’s what he calls a “club no one wants to join.”
“I hear from so many people that meet me, 'I can't imagine.' That's the standard. I mean, what else are they going to say? In this book, I imagine the unimaginable for the reader. I want to take them through that day and tell you how the worst thing that could possibly happen to a person happens, and how you feel. But then how you get through it,” Andy Parker said.
“Getting through it” is something he and his wife, Barbara, work on every day. He said he was once told that Alison would want him to live on. He admits it is a tough task. In his book, he compares it to having diabetes. “I deal with it. I manage it. It’s a disease, sort of. There isn’t one day, one second, one hour I don’t think about her,” he said.
Part of Andy Parker’s living on is fighting for others to survive. Since his daughter's shooting, he has become nationally known for speaking out against the National Rifle Association and fighting for gun reform. His fight is also documented in the book.
"It's part memoir, it's a part current affairs piece and it's a call to action,” he said.
But the book isn’t all fight. It’s the story of life and a father's love.
"She was so talented. Everything she picked up she did extremely well. She was driven, she was professional. She was beautiful, but she was also beautiful inside. She touched and inspired so many people. People tell Alison stories. She was as much as anything just a kind soul,” Andy Parker said.
Proceeds from the book go to the For Alison Foundation, dedicated to giving young people an opportunity like Alison. Andy Parker said Alison was a talented dancer who had the potential to build a career around her craft, but she had other plans in mind.
"She was an incredible dancer. I could objectively say, even though I'm her dad, she was so good she could have danced on Broadway. She really could. But she wanted to be a journalist,” Parker said.
“We would take her to the theater. We would travel. We did everything we could to expose her to the arts, which is good for the soul. And a lot of kids aren't as fortunate as she was,” Parker said.
The book is a way to honor his daughter.
"The message is ultimately about hope,” Parker said.
When asked what would his daughter say about him today, Andy Parker said “I'd like to think she would say, 'I'm proud of you, Dad.'”
Andy Parker will be talking about his book Saturday in downtown Roanoke at the Book No Further bookstore at 1 p.m.