A memorial garden was dedicated in Annapolis, Maryland, Friday in honor of the five newspaper employees shot dead in their newsroom in a “senseless attack” one year ago.
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On June 28, 2018, four journalists — Wendi Winters, Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman and John McNamara — and a sales assistant — Rebecca Smith — were gunned down at the Capital Gazette in what became the largest killing of journalists in U.S. history.
The suspected gunman, who allegedly had a long grudge against the Capital Gazette, has pleaded not criminally responsible.
The garden at Acton’s Cove Waterfront Park has five rose bushes and a memorial plaque, the Capital Gazette reported.
That park was a favorite spot for Hiaasen, an assistant editor, who would go there for “solitude” and to think of his next story, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said at Friday’s dedication ceremony.
The waterfront garden will serve as a place for community members to “contemplate what was stolen from those five beautiful people,” Buckley said.
“It’s extremely fitting that this is where this garden is. Because people will come here… and it will be empty,” said Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell. “Come here and think about what these five lives meant.”
“I’m far richer for having known them,” said Hutzell, overcome with emotion. “And I’m far poorer for having lost them.”
In the hours after the massacre, the Capital Gazette staff chose to continue to report on the tragedy to publish the next day’s newspaper.
Trif Alatzas, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Sun Media Group, told the journalists gathered at the ceremony, in the wake of the “senseless attack,” “we have a purpose.”
“Wendy, Rebecca, John, Gerald and Rob would’ve expected us to carry on with an even greater purpose. To carry on and nurture our first amendment rights despite the horror that they faced,” he said. “It’s that strength that gives me peace even when I think back to that awful day.”
David Dreier, a former congressman and chair of the newspaper’s parent company, called the attack the “most brutal form of attempted censorship.”
Yet the “brave people of the Capital Gazette have been honoring their fallen colleagues by making sure… the finest work product is being provided,” Dreier said.
“The horror that took place last year has inspired plans for the building of a memorial in our nation’s capital,” Dreier said. He hopes within the next “seven-plus years,” Washington, D.C., will have a memorial for fallen journalists.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted Friday morning, “As I reflect on that tragic day — the chaos, the grief, the outpouring of support, the survivors’ commitment to sharing the news — I am reminded of both the strength of my local community and the necessity of freedom of the press.”
Hogan proclaimed June 28 to be “Freedom of the Press Day” in the victims’ honor.