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(This column is adapted from previous STATter911.com articles on Kyle Wilson’s death.)
Fifteen-years-ago today, shortly after breakfast, word came in a firefighter was killed in a house fire in Prince William County, Virginia. My initial job was to get the information confirmed for our morning news broadcasts. WUSA-TV, the station where I worked, and our competitors began sending news crews to the fire scene.
This house fire occurred a little less than three weeks before the birth of STATter911.com. Even without the website, covering the fire service in the Washington, DC area was part of my beat. A few phone calls confirmed the death. As I finished dressing for work, it was obvious where I was headed and what my news story would be for the day, and likely much of the week. I was wrong.
I never got to the fire scene and almost all of the reporters and TV news crews already at 15,492 Marsh Overlook Drive were suddenly told by editors and assignment desks to leave the fire. Most were sent toward the southwestern portion of Virginia, to the town of Blacksburg. There had been a shooting at West Ambler Johnston Hall at Virginia Tech.
The shooting occurred about an hour after the fire was reported. About two hours later, there was more gunfire on campus at Norris Hall. In the hours ahead, the number of dead and wounded would climb to become — at that time — the deadliest massacre by a single gunman in U.S. History. It’s now number three.
Back at Marsh Overlook Drive, Technician I Kyle Robert Wilson was dead and there was barely a mention in the local news the entire week. As much as anyone, I understood the news business and why it was that way. But it still bothers me.
My on-air role that week was in the studio searching the Internet and social media for videos from Virginia Tech. I was able to negotiate with the producers and find a few opportunities to also remind people that a firefighter was dead. These brief mentions weren’t adequate news coverage of a firefighter’s line-of-duty death.
That’s why I want to make an extra effort to ask you to remember Kyle Wilson and his family today, on the fifteenth anniversary of his death. It will, once again, be overshadowed by another important and tragic anniversary. But it should never diminish the sacrifice made by this young firefighter and the loss felt by his family and friends.
Thankfully, Wilson’s fellow firefighters and the citizens of Prince William County ensured a more lasting tribute to Kyle Wilson than TV news reports, newspaper articles and this website can offer. By the tenth anniversary, a new school was named the Kyle R. Wilson Elementary School.
Image from Kyle R. Wilson Elementary School Facebook page.