At a wedding in July, Chris Hurst’s old friends from Emerson College pulled him away from the table to tell him his date was his perfect match. But Hurst didn’t need his friends to tell him that. He could see it himself.
Alison Parker was a bright light. She had an outgoing personality and a smile that could warm the hearts of strangers, Hurst’s friends say. She was an avid dancer and a talented reporter at Virginia TV station WDBJ, where she worked with Hurst.
But most importantly to Hurst’s friends, she made him “very, very happy.”
While on the air Wednesday for a morning broadcast, Parker and WDBJ cameraman Adam Ward were fatally shot by a former colleague. The 41-year-old gunman, Vester Lee Flanagan II, later died at a hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Several of Hurst’s friends from Emerson, where he graduated in 2009, reflected Wednesday on the death of the 24-year-old woman whom they had met just weeks earlier at the wedding of Emerson alum Cole Yeager.
Yeager, who bonded with Hurst in college over their love for Philadelphia sports teams, said Hurst had been talking about Parker since at least December, and Hurst had called her “the most beautiful girl he’s ever been with.”
Though Parker and Hurst had dated for only nine months, Yeager said, it was clear their love was deep.
“They just certainly found the right person, and for that to be taken away is the biggest tragedy,” Yeager said.
Hurst wrote about Parker on Twitter Wednesday, describing their relationship as the “best nine months of our lives.” He said they had just moved in together and celebrated Parker’s 24th birthday, and in the wake of her death, he was “numb.”
The couple went camping over the weekend for Parker’s Aug. 19 birthday, and Hurst gave his girlfriend a ring with a black jewel.
Yeager said Parker had sent him a picture of the ring on Sunday, and he had asked her whether they were engaged yet.
“ ‘Haha no engagement yet,’” Yeager said the reporter texted back.
In another text to Yeager, Parker asked, “You think he’s that crazy about me?”
“Yeah, we love you so much,” Yeager responded. “And he is crazy about you.”
Jake Duhaime, another Emerson alum, met Parker for the first time at Yeager’s wedding, and said by the end of the night, everyone knew they were perfect for one another.
“They complement each other so well,” he said. “We knew they had something very, very special.”
Ben Collins, who hosted a radio show with Hurst at Emerson, said he had not met Parker but was shocked to hear about the tragedy confronting his “profoundly sharp and unbelievable” college friend.
“It’s a wordless thing,” he said. “You don’t know what the next steps are when the worst thing that could happen, happens.”
The next several months will be the hardest, Duhaime said, and Hurst’s friends from Emerson hope to support him in any way they can. For now, they’re all just trying to make sense of Hurst’s loss.
“You could just tell how happy he was to have her, and likewise, how happy she was to be with him,” he said. “There were a lot of people that started to encourage him, and say, ‘This is the girl. This is the one. She’s perfect for you.’ ”