MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Thursday morning’s shooting in the parking lot of a Montgomery elementary school hit very close to home for WSFA 12 News staff.
Anchors Judd Davis and Bethany Davis are on-air every morning bringing viewers around the Montgomery area the latest news with Today in Alabama. Thursday morning’s broadcast came to an end and, within a few minutes, the crew had made its way to the newsroom to start preparing for the day ahead.
For Judd, that includes getting ready for updates that air every 30 minutes. Bethany had been out in the field for morning live shots, talking about an upcoming library book sale event. She returned to the station a few minutes later and was discussing with staff the results of some interviews she’d done for an upcoming story.
Then, they all heard the newsroom police scanner.
“My heart stopped, stomach dropped, and for a minute everything went quiet,” Judd said. “The scanner said ‘shots fired, gunman may be inside Blount Elementary School.’ We have a first grader who goes there.”
One of the newsroom staff said they saw the blood disappear from Judd’s and Bethany’s faces.
By the time the two are done with their Today in Alabama broadcasts at 7 a.m., their little boy is already on his way to class at Blount Elementary, thanks to a family member.
“I didn’t want to be reporter," Judd said. “I wanted to be dad. I just got up grabbed my keys and left.”
As he was leaving, Judd called his father-in-law and quickly learned their little boy was still safe in the car. Relieved, he quickly returned to the station and started working on updates to the developing situation, as shown below in one of several breaking news cut-ins throughout the morning.
“I’m furious and thankful at the same time,” Judd said. “Parents, we have to do better, all of us.”
Judd shared his feelings on his station Facebook page, which has been shared more than 3,000 times since.
While Judd was at the station, Bethany was tasked with getting to the school to begin station coverage.
During an on-air interview, seen below, Bethany talked about the situation as a news reporter, then admitted to viewers that her own child is a student at the school that was behind her.
“I have a child who goes to this school,” she said. “He’s in the first grade this year. This is his third day of school for the year, and so he was a little bit apprehensive at first about going in to school."
“It’s a fine line to walk, that professional and personal line. It’s easy to feel torn,” she later explained. As she headed to the scene to cover the events, she spent much of the ride talking to her son, Hudson, on the phone.
“He gave me a play-by-play of everything. He told me how many police officers he saw , how many of the cars had flashing lights he saw. He told me that he saw the yellow tape around the school here, that he saw an ambulance and a firetruck.”
“We talked and we decided to check him in. I can tell you that as I walked him down the halls to his classroom, there’s a lot of trepidation, still inside the school,” Bethany said.
Thankfully, despite the shots being fired, no one was injured.
Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Ann Roy Moore said only about one-third of students stayed for classes Thursday.