Today at 2:33 p.m., journalists at The Baltimore Sun and in newsrooms across the nation will pause for a moment of silence to honor our five colleagues from the Annapolis Capital who were killed one year ago: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith. This morning, the city of Annapolis will formally dedicate a memorial park in their honor at a spot overlooking the water, and plans are underway for a freedom of the press memorial in the city. There has been a gun violence summit in the city this week, and tonight there will be a memorial concert at the Maryland Hall. Gov. Larry Hogan named June 28 Freedom of the Press Day.
The tributes are overwhelming. Over the years, many of us at The Sun worked closely with those who were killed, and the pain of their loss remains fresh. We are deeply grateful for all those who seek to keep the memories of Gerald, Rob, John, Wendi and Rebecca alive. But those tributes and remembrances, like any words we might write, inevitably fall short of recognizing everything their lives and deaths meant. The only ones who can truly do justice to their legacies are the colleagues they left behind, and during the last year, those men and women have done so with the greatest dignity and dedication.
The journalists at the Capital have beautifully memorialized Gerald, Rob, John, Wendi and Rebecca. But the greatest honor those who survived have paid to those who died is to carry on their work: telling the stories of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.
That was what defined the lives of the Capital five, and it was, so far as we can tell, the reason they were killed. What exactly prompted a man to mass murder last June 28, we don’t know and may never know. But it is clear enough that it was not a random act of violence. The man charged in the killings had a years-long vendetta against the paper, expressed online, in letters and through a lawsuit, over an article about a previous criminal case against him. But not even the deadliest act of terrorism against American journalists could silence the men and women of the Capital.
Many of them have taken up the cause of gun control, speaking out publicly, writing about the issue and testifying before the legislature, often alongside the families of their former colleagues. They have covered the legal proceedings in the case against the man accused in the mass killing with an unfathomable professionalism. But they have also shone a daily light on their community, chronicling the political and the personal, the profound and routine, the joyful and tragic — each and every day for the past year.
Life may never be quite the same in Annapolis, but it has gone on, and the journalists of the Capital have worked through their own fear and sorrow to cover it just as their former colleagues would have. They wrote about a watershed election in Anne Arundel County and its aftermath, helping their readers work through debates on school funding, taxes and immigration. They parsed the latest in the long, long string of plans to revive City Dock. They showed how the Trump administration’s shifting policies on transgender people in the military affected the Naval Academy. They investigated a mental health crisis in county schools and the inadequate resources to cope with it. They memorialized the Annapolitan who was the longest serving speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, who died just before the legislature was set to adjourn. They used the Public Information Act to get 700 pages of emails between elected officials, library staff and board members arguing about Drag Queen Story Time.
No one outside the newsroom can truly understand what Capital Editor Rick Hutzell and his small band of reporters and photographers have been through in the last year, but we can all stand in awe of what they have accomplished. In their work, Gerald, Rob, John, Wendi and Rebecca live on.
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