It's not often you get to follow a story from beginning to end, but I’ve had that chance with the D.C. sniper attacks and it has given me a sense of finality.
Covering the shootings last year was one of the most difficult assignments I’ve had; both physically and emotionally.
The hours were long — on site at 4:30 or 5 am, then staying live through 3 pm. We were all targets, even the media center in Rockville, Maryland. During the press conferences with Chief Moose, police choppers hovered overhead, cops were stationed around our tents, and tarps were put up so there was no clear view of the site. We seemed like logical high profile targets: standing in one place for live shots for hours at a time.
|"People can overcome the most horrific losses to seek justice under trying circumstances."|
I will never forget reporting the death of bus driver Conrad Johnson, the sniper's last victim. We had confirmation of his passing and I wondered and hoped his friends and family wouldn't be hearing it on the news first. This death was particularly hard for me to cover. I watched it unfold from the first reports of the shooting, the rush to the hospital, the long hours waiting for word, and then to the confirmation that Johnson had not survived.
There are so many "what ifs" in this case. What if someone had found Mr. Johnson earlier that morning? What if he hadn't been alone on the bus? Would any of this have saved his life? I can only hope that as he lay bleeding on his bus, that he did not suffer but knew his family loved him.
Covering the trials of John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo fleshed out the attacks by meeting, seeing and hearing the people who were most affected by them. To know firsthand from the autopsy photos how brutal these attacks were — how Linda Franklin, the FBI analyst shot outside the Home Depot, had half her face blown off — it’s a hard detail to confront, but it speaks to the ruthlessness of the killers.
These killings remind me that there is darkness in the world. There are people for whom life does not matter and who will take it for the most bizarre reasons. That said, the experience also reaffirms my belief that people can overcome the most horrific losses to seek justice under trying circumstances.
The husband of Linda Franklin, I believe, exemplifies this. He took the stand twice to describe the moment his wife was shot in the head; how blood and brain spattered on his shirt — how there was no hope she would survive.
It also seemed clear from Mr. Franklin's testimony that the snipers lined up their shot on him as he held the shopping cart in the Home Depot parking lot. But then he switched positions with his wife. Linda Franklin was holding the cart, when just a few seconds later the shot rang out, killing her instantly.
William Franklin found the strength to bare his soul, his loss, and the love for his wife to the jury. His selfless testimony, and that of others, is what led to a conviction.
Catherine Herridge is the Homeland Defense Correspondent for FOX News.