The only survivor of the massacre captured on live television last month in Virginia was most fearful the gunman would shoot her in the head, she said in an exclusive interview that aired Tuesday on Fox News’ “On The Record” with Greta Van Susteren.
Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, was being interviewed on Aug. 26 by WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward when former television station employee Vester Flanagan walked up and opened fire.
Gardner said the whole incident happened “very, very fast” and the only thing she could think of was to quickly drop to the ground as if she had been shot and play dead.
“I was laying down. I realized it was quiet and everybody was down, and I didn’t know where he was,” Gardner said. “I felt as though the next shot -- I knew the next shot, he was just going to shoot me in the head, because that was what he was doing.”
After being shot in the back, Gardner said she still feared that Flanagan would return and shoot her execution-style as she was on the ground.
“I was waiting for him to shoot me in the head. When he shot me in the back, I said, ‘I’m going to be paralyzed,’ and then I waited,” she said. “It goes real quick. Your world goes in front of you, and it did, real fast, and I said, ‘I’m ready.’”
When Flanagan didn’t return, Gardner told Van Susteren she thought that she would never be able to walk again until police officers responding to the scene helped her up into a nearby emergency vehicle.
Gardner’s husband, Tim, said he was watching the interview that morning when he heard the gunfire and saw the camera fade to black as WDBJ went back to the anchor desk.
“I knew exactly what had happened I heard the gunshots and I saw the expression on her face,” he said. “The closest thing I can remember to seeing that face was when Lee Harvey Oswald got shot in 1963 on live TV, and it’s the same expression, so I knew what had happened.”
While describing the following time period as “a rather tough 15 minutes” as he attempted to find out what happened to his wife, Tim said his fears were eased when he received a call from an unfamiliar area code that turned out to be his wife in an ambulance telling him she was alive.
“Those were some of the best words I’ve ever heard,” he said.
Gardner was released from the hospital on Sept. 8, nearly two weeks after the attack. Doctors had to remove a kidney and part of her colon due to injuries from the shooting.