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'We are not the enemy': Mourners gather for victims of Capital Gazette shooting

Some marched down Annapolis’ Main Street Friday, their faces resolute, hoisting editions of The Capital newspaper high in the air. Others gathered quietly in church, crying and holding each other close as they remembered their slain friends.

On a grassy knoll, still others began singing “Amazing Grace” spontaneously -- their voices searching for something higher and better than the mass shootings ravaging American schools, churches, entertainment venues and now a newsroom.

Across Annapolis Friday, at multiple events, hundreds gathered to honor the five employees killed Thursday in a shooting at the Capital Gazette offices.

About 300 mourners gathered for a candlelight vigil 90 minutes before sunset.

”We are not the enemy,” Capital reporter Pat Furgurson told the crowd. “We’re you.”

It was a message that seemed aimed not just at Jarrod Warren Ramos, 38, of Laurel, the man charged with five counts of first-degree murder, but at those who agree with President Donald Trump’s assertion that journalists are “the enemy of the American people.”

Killed during Thursday’s rampage were editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; editor and sports writer John McNamara, 56; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant.

From the knoll where the crowd spontaneously broke out into a rendition of “Amazing Grace,” mourners could see the giant “888” on the upper wall of the brown brick office building housing The Capital. As new participants joined the group, each was given an unlighted white candle.

“The First Amendment enshrines the protection of a free press,” said the Rev. Stephen A. Tillett, pastor of Asbury Broadneck United Methodist Church of Annapolis.

“They keep their eye on things, and that’s what keeps us honest.”

The gathering was an interdenominational service that featured a rabbi, an imam and several Protestant ministers. Earlier, at a service honoring Winters, the Rev. John T. Crestwell Jr. said that she had attended an active-shooter training held about three weeks ago at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis.

A reporter told Crestwell that Winters “did not cower in fear, but she actually went towards the gunman and gave her life,” he said during Winters’ service.

“She died a heroine. She probably saved more lives, and that’s something we can be proud of in spite of this tragedy.”

The crowd at the outdoor service included Furgurson and other Capital Gazette employees, Winters’ daughters, Maryland first lady Yumi Hogan and Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

Wiping his eyes, Busch told the group that his daughter had played soccer with one of Winters’ daughters and that he used to run into her frequently at PTA meetings.

“These people were husbands, wives, mothers and fathers,” Busch said. “They didn’t come from someplace else. They were dedicated to our community. They did not deserve to die under these circumstances.”

A small table held a candle that bore the name and an image of each of the five journalists who died. A bouquet of white carnations lay beneath the table. About 45 minutes before sunset, the Rev. Ryan P. Sirmons, pastor of the United Church of Christ of Annapolis, read the name of the three men and two women aloud. After each one, a bell sounded one doleful chime.

But though the five were the most obvious casualties, those attending the vigil acknowledged that the survivors were damaged as well.

Some injuries were physical. Staff members Rachael Pacella and Janel Cooley were treated at a local hospital for their wounds.

Others were terrorized psychologically.

“We’re all suffering,” said the Rev. Heather Shortlidge of the First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis. She asked prayer service participants to pray for “the family members who got that knock on the door or that phone call that no one ever wants to get.” She asked them to pray for “the survivors, for their deep grief and pain and perhaps even survivors’ guilt.”

After she finished speaking, Sirmons asked the crowd to light their candles and hold them skyward. It was about 30 minutes before sunset, and the flames flickered palely against the fading sky.

“Nothing is quite as united as a newspaper office,” Sirmons said. “This is a community newspaper that prides itself on telling stories of the people of this community and lifting them up. We must have free speech. We must have journalists and journalism.”

After the service ended, a man came up to Furgurson, tears in his eyes.

“Thank you for getting my newspaper to me this morning,” he said.

Baltimore Sun reporters Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs contributed to this article.

mmccauley@baltsun.com

twitter.com/mcmccauley

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