ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Just around the corner from City Dock, in a highly trafficked area of downtown Annapolis, now stands a memorial for five Capital Gazette staffers who told the stories of this community and were killed for doing their jobs.
"It is perfect," said Maria Hiaasen, victim Rob Hiaasen’s widow.
The new memorial sits in Newman Street Park as a reminder of what happened three years ago at the Capital Gazette and the importance of the freedom of the press. It was unveiled Monday, the three year anniversary of the shooting, the largest killing of journalists in U.S. history.
"These people were targeted for being members of the Free Press and for exercising that right," said Winters Larca, daughter of victim Wendi Winters.
"We’ll be here to remind us of those we lost but also to encourage us to think about the foundational freedom that we as Americans hold dear. Without a free press, we can’t have a functioning democracy," said Mayor Gavin Buckley.
The memorial is called 'Guardians of the First Amendment' and consists of a large wall with the words of the first amendment inscribed on it, a bronzed version of the first page of the Capital Gazette the day after the shooting and five pillars to represent each victim, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, Rebecca Smith, John McNamara and Wendi Winters.
"It pays tribute, not to the heinous act of June 28, but to the loses of those we loved and to the triumph of those strong writers and editors who rallied and put that damn paper out," said Hiaasen.
The project was a community-wide effort between state and local leaders, nonprofits and donors, supported by the Caucus of African American Leaders and initiated by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee because they knew some of the victims.
"These people were our family, our coworkers, our friends and members of our community," said Carl Snowden, Convener or the Annapolis Caucus of African American Leaders.
Governor Larry Hogan was not in attendance but proclaimed Monday 'Freedom of the Press Day' in honor of the employees.
Along with continuing to fight for the freedom of the press, family members are fighting for stricter gun control laws to prevent future gun violence.
"To honor the lives of those who have been cruelly taken away from us, we are dedicated to preventing this from never happening again to any newspaper, to any family, to anyone," said Andrea Chamblee, victim John McNamara’s widow. "We demand our leaders use their positions to make real meaningful change that will save lives."
"It's a memorial to the five staff of Capitol Gazette newspaper that were killed," said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. "But it's also a reminder to people who see it that that local journalism really matters, local papers really matter."
He went on to discuss the importance of local journalism.