Andrea Chamblee said she began to receive strange texts. Picture: News Corp Australia
Andrea Chamblee said she began to receive strange texts. Picture: News Corp Australia

Mass shooting widow’s chilling text messages

ANDREA Chamblee will never forget the haunting text messages she received on June 28.

She was working at a government agency just outside Washington, DC, when she looked at her phone and saw a stream of unusual messages flood in.

"Where does your husband work?" she was asked in one of them.

"What's happening in Annapolis?" asked another.

While one ominously asked: "Have you seen the news?"

Her husband, John McNamara was working as a reporter for the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, and nothing could have prepared her for what she found out next.

In a first-person piece for The Washington Post, Ms Chamblee said she quickly googled what was happening in the city after being confused by the messages. Deeply concerned by what she was reading online, she ran outside to the parking lot of her building.

Ms Chamblee became deeply concerned about her husband. Picture: The Washington Post
Ms Chamblee became deeply concerned about her husband. Picture: The Washington Post

"SHOOTING AT ANNAPOLIS CAPITAL," screamed a huge CNN billboard outside.

Her heart sank as she watched footage unfolding on the big screen in front of her. She was just looking for one thing - her husband's bright blue shirt.

She tried calling him but there was no answer.

Then she was sent a tweet, saying someone had been killed, and then she began to receive awkward phone calls from national newspaper journalists who couldn't tell her exactly what was going on.

In her piece, she describes how she called an information hotline set up by crisis responders, but she still couldn't find out whether her husband was alive or dead.

After seven hours of waiting, in which she was told her husband might be "among the injured" by a Wall Street Journal reporter, she got a call from a strange number and several of McNamara's co-workers could be heard on the line.

"There is wailing, painful, wounded wailing," she wrote. "One voice chokes out the words: 'He's dead.' The wailing gets louder. It is my wailing."

John McNamara was shot dead along with four of his colleagues. Picture: The Baltimore Sun
John McNamara was shot dead along with four of his colleagues. Picture: The Baltimore Sun

The devastating moment was followed by weeks of sleepless nights as she fended calls from journalists, identified her husband's body and met with crisis centre staff, grief counsellors and McNamara's life insurance company.

In the heartbreaking piece released today, she describes the devastating toll that day had on her life and how every moment of her life is still consumed by the loss of her husband.

Although he was a newsman at the time of the horrific shooting, McNamara was a sports writer for decades.

Four of his colleagues were killed on June 28 when police said a gunman with a grudge against the newspaper blasted his way into the Capital Gazette newsroom.

A memorial service was held Tuesday for the talented sports reporter, with many people recalling McNamara's skill and professionalism.

Ms Chamblee could be seen walking into the audience, where she hugged former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams and current Terps basketball coach Mark Turgeon.

"I only knew John for seven years," Mr Turgeon later told AP.

"I thought he was always fair in his writing, good or bad. He was a purist. As a coach, you liked when guys understand your game, and John understood our game. He's going to be missed."

Mr McNamara, 56, wrote two books about athletics at his alma mater, one about football and the other about basketball.

Andrea Chamblee, bottom left, is comforted during a memorial service for John McNamara. Picture: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
Andrea Chamblee, bottom left, is comforted during a memorial service for John McNamara. Picture: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

 

A special service was held for the beloved reporter on Tuesday. Picture: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
A special service was held for the beloved reporter on Tuesday. Picture: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

"Everybody loved, everybody respected John McNamara," said Johnny Holliday, the announcer for Maryland football and basketball games. "And he was as honest a reporter as I ever met."

Featured on the stage at the chapel was a photo of McNamara covering a basketball game, and a red Maryland basketball jersey bearing his last name. An urn containing his ashes was placed in the forefront.

Several of the speakers said McNamara was also an expert on music and movies.

"John was a guy who was clever and funny, and could talk about anything," Terrapin Times sports writer Mike Ashley said.

Mr Holliday said he talked sports with McNamara all the time and the gifted reporter trumped his knowledge on the subject. So Mr Holliday, once a famous disc jockey, decided to shift the topic to rock'n'roll.

"I lost," Mr Holliday said. "John had an encyclopaedic mind when it came to old music. Not only about singers and songwriters, but where those songs landed on the charts."

- with wires


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