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Father of slain Virginia reporter Alison Parker: 'We have a new mission in life'

Andy Parker, father of one of the Virginia journalists gunned down on live TV in August, reflects on the family's next big challenge.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

A little over three months ago, WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker was gunned down, along with cameraman Adam Ward, in a horrific shooting aired on live television and social media. Today, the 24-year-old reporter’s father, Andy Parker, opens up about the grief his family has suffered, but also how the tragedy has given them a new mission: to end gun violence in the U.S.

He shares his story with TODAY, kicking off “2015 Voices,” a special series of essays and interviews with newsmakers behind some of the biggest moments of the year.

On Aug. 26, our daughter Alison was murdered on live television here in Virginia. Sometimes it seems like a long time ago, but then other times it only seems like yesterday.

It is a parent’s worst nightmare to get that call saying that your child has been killed. You don’t think something like this could ever to happen to you, or to someone you love — but it can.

Alison was an amazing force of nature. She was caring and ambitious. She had her dream job, working as an anchor and reporter. She loved the outdoors. She loved kayaking.

Alison Parker and her boyfriend Chris Hurst. Parker, 24, was shot to death while on a reporting assignment in Virginia in August. Twitter/@chrishurstwdbj

She loved her family, and she loved her boyfriend Chris Hurst, a remarkable young man who has become part of our family.

And she died doing the job she loved. We’re devastated without her. Not a single day goes by that I don’t feel the hollow void in my soul.

RELATED: Alison Parker's boyfriend Chris Hurst: 'She brought a smile out of me'

Here’s what the past few months have been like. First we were numb. Then we grieved. And even as we grieved, we also got angry. Because we couldn’t believe something like this could continue to happen in this country.

Andy Parker, Alison's father, at a rally against gun violence at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 10. Reuters

While my emotions were still raw, I vowed on national television to do “whatever it takes” to end gun violence. It took a few days for me to realize that gun violence prevention advocates like Everytown for Gun Safety, which I soon joined, took that phrase and turned it into an international rallying cry for people who've had enough.

What does it mean? It means speaking out for sensible gun laws. It also means standing up for political leaders willing to do the right thing and calling out the ones that don’t.

In the recent Virginia legislative election, we joined other survivors at campaign canvassing and phone banking events in key districts. We attended debates, we filmed TV and radio ads with Everytown to call out opponents for not supporting something as simple as background checks and letting voters know how the NRA was funding each of their campaigns.

Parker and fellow journalist Adam Ward, who was also killed in the attack. Andy Parker and his family have vowed to do whatever they can to end gun violence in the U.S.WDBJ

In the end, we helped elect a strong gun safety candidate to the State Senate and did it in Virginia, the NRA’s home turf.

My wife, Barbara, Chris and I became members of a club no one wants to join. We have a new mission in life. But Alison is with us. And she wouldn’t just support the work we’re doing. She would insist that we do it. She’d be mad if we weren’t.

I believe in my core that we have moved the needle on gun violence prevention and the tide is turning. Because of who she was and the way she died, I have realized that Alison has touched millions and her story lives on. So our crusade continues, and we are in it for the long haul. Her ever-present spirit is the fuel that keeps us going.

We are a family of kayakers. As the paddler’s mantra goes, as long we all keep on paddling, as I know Alison is right now, we will prevail.