Nearly a month after being injured in a deadly shooting on live television that claimed the lives of two others and left her as the lone survivor, Vicki Gardner has remained in high spirits during her recovery.
"It's a day-by-day recovery and hard to know what to expect as each day goes by,'' she told Savannah Guthrie in an exclusive interview on TODAY Thursday. "When you combine up the physical and the mental, I feel like I'm the poster child for recovery, so I'm feeling good."
Gardner was injured in a shooting on Aug. 26 that claimed the lives of WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27. Parker was interviewing Gardner, the executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, at around 6:45 a.m. in a shopping center in Moneta, Virginia, when gunman Vester Flanagan opened fire. Flanagan, 41, a disgruntled former employee who had been fired by the station, took his own life during a police chase later in the day.
Gardner curled up in the fetal position and played dead before Flanagan shot her in the back and then fled the season before authorities and paramedics arrived. She underwent two surgeries and lost her right kidney and a portion of her colon during a two-week stay at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. She is expected to make a full recovery.
During her recuperation, she made it a point to watch the video of the shooting.
"Your mind can conjure up all sorts of things, and I wanted to make sure that what my mind is thinking and reality kind of match up,'' she said. "I think it's very important. This is not something you can suppress. You just really to need to face it and piece together those pieces of the puzzle. I think it's helpful for everybody."
Her husband, Tim Gardner, told TODAY one day after the shooting that he witnessed the incident on live television and that his wife remembered everything from the harrowing moments of the shooting.
"It was surreal,'' she told Guthrie. "I saw movement behind us and from there his arm went up. A mind can't conjure up the reality even though you're living it. I just felt that the very best thing was to...just drop and go into fetal position. He did whatever it was that he did that I couldn't see because of my position and then he came back just I guess to be sure and shot me in the back."
Parker's boyfriend, WDBJ reporter Brett Hurst, returned to work on Monday for the first time since the shooting, saying "the healing has begun."
Gardner feels the response to the shooting brought out the best in her local community.
"What I want to showcase is what a community does right when a tragedy happens,'' she said. "We hear a lot of communities that just don't know how to deal with it. This community did it right. They pulled together, they continued to be respectful and honor everything that has happened in such a great way."
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