The Capital journalist Wendi Winters has been posthumously awarded the highest honor for civilian heroism in the U.S. and Canada, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announced Monday.
Survivors credit Winters for saving their lives when she picked up a trash can and recycling bin and charged a gunman who blasted through the glass doors of The Capital’s office on June 28, 2018. Winters was shot and killed trying to protect her colleagues. Four other employees were killed in the shooting: Rebecca Smith, Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman and John McNamara.
“We’re honored that people are still remembering what she did as an act of heroism,” said Summerleigh Geimer, her daughter.
Trif Alatzas, publisher and editor-in-chief of Baltimore Sun Media, which includes The Capital, thanked the commission for recognizing her.
“Wendi’s brave actions that awful day helped save the lives of many of our treasured colleagues, and for that, we are forever grateful,” he said. “She is more than deserving of this honor. We will never forget what she did that day, the incredible work she did to inform the Annapolis community during her journalism career and her commitment to telling the important stories about the people who live there. Thank you to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission for recognizing her.”
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission was created in 1904 by Andrew Carnegie to recognize outstanding acts of selfless heroism performed in the United States and Canada. The commission awards the Carnegie Medal to those who risk their lives while saving or attempting to save the lives of others, and describes it as the highest civilian award for heroism in the nation.
Around 80 people are honored with a Carnegie Medal each year, and approximately 10% of all awarded cases are posthumous. Winters is one of 17 people honored this quarter. Awardees or their survivors are also granted $5,500.
There were 11 people in the office during the shooting; six survived. The gunman had barricaded the office’s alternate entrance, trapping people inside and forcing them to hide under their desks. Winters charged forward holding a trash can and recycling bin. Winters shouted something like, “No! You stop that!” or “You get out of here!” The confrontation gave other employees time to run or hide.
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Winters was 65 and lived in Edgewater and was a proud Navy mom, church youth adviser, Girl Scout leader and Red Cross blood drive coordinator and volunteer. Her children started the Wendi Winters Memorial Foundation to organize and promote programs that support local journalism, journalists and news organizations. They host blood drives in her honor as she regularly donated blood.
Winters posthumously received the regional Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association’s first Courage in Journalism award in 2019.
Her family hopes to put her name up for consideration for the Presidential Medal of Freedom during President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. Maryland’s entire congressional delegation asked President Donald Trump to award Winters the honor posthumously in 2018.
The U.S. Senate approved legislation this month known as the Fallen Journalists Memorial Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland. The act authorizes the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation to begin planning and raising funds to create a national memorial that honors slain journalists. The bill now is on President Donald Trump’s desk awaiting his signature.
The Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation announced plans for the memorial more than a year ago, near the one-year mark of the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom.
Another memorial to honor the five slain Capital Gazette staffers called “Guardians of Free Speech” is set to be unveiled in Newman Park in 2021 on the third anniversary of the shooting.
The second part of the trial of the man convicted of murdering Winters, Fischman, Hiaasen, McNamara and Smith was rescheduled for three weeks starting June 2021, overlapping the three-year mark of the deadliest attack on journalists in American history. While he was convicted for the murders, the trial on his sanity will determine whether he spends the remainder of his life in a state prison or is committed indefinitely to a secure psychiatric facility.