Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the death of two upstate journalists, two men, many of us in the news business also called our friends.
Photos of WYFF anchor/reporter Mike McCormick and Photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer have been on display for the past week as part of a temporary obituary at the journalists memorial. The “newseum” recognizes men and women who were killed while covering and reporting news.
The names of 18 journalists will be added to the memorial to represent 46 journalists who died in pursuit of the news in 2017. Mike and Aaron’s names will be considered next year to be added permanently.
The two died when a tree fell on their news vehicle while covering a storm damage May 28, 2018 in North Carolina.
We wanted to take a look back at the many ways people have honored the two journalists over the last year.
In their 35 years, Mike McCormick and Aaron Smeltzer mastered not just the art of storytelling as Upstate journalists, but the art of giving back.
After the tragedy, friends and strangers picked up where they left off, supporting their many passions, especially journalism, animals, and helping others.
“I don’t think that he would have expected the outpouring of love to have happened like it did,” said Heather Lawter, Smeltzer’s fiance.
Lawter wasn’t just referring to the nearly $20,000 that has poured into the Spartanburg Humane Society or the donations and volunteering at the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen in their honor.
On June 3, Smeltzer and McCormick’s names will be added to the Journalists Memorial at the Newseum in Washington D.C. It’s something that almost didn’t happen.
“They were going to put one name on the wall to represent all the journalists killed, and I just couldn’t settle for that, I posted it on Facebook. Many people commented and left messages and within 24 hours I had a phone call saying, yes their names were going to be put on there,” Lawter said.
She said it would have meant the world to Smeltzer, a sentiment echoed by McCormick’s longtime friend, Tyler Clark.
“What I’m astonished by are people’s willingness to keep his memory alive and I know the family is so appreciative of that,” Clark said.
Smeltzer’s mother Sharon Mabe was also touched by the $25,000 donation Hearst broadcasting made to Smeltzer’s high school in Tazewell, Virginia to create a media center in his honor.
“The outpouring of love for Aaron has just been phenomenal,” Mabe said.
Hearst also donated the same amount to start a scholarship in McCormick’s honor at his Alma Matter, Miami University.
“He absolutely loved journalism and loved the University of Miami and he would be so excited to know that somebody would be able to go through that program in his name,” said Kevin McMullen, McCormick’s brother.
If there were ever any comfort in the days after such a tragedy, it’s seeing how so many are helping to keep their memory alive.
“I know that Aaron was loved and is missed by everyone,” his mother said.
“I think we are all dealing with this loss together and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives, he’ll always be a part of us,” Clark said about McCormick.
Smeltzer’s mom has recently started her own support group for parents who have lost children. Lawter is part of a support group here in the Upstate.
McCormick’s father in Florida told me he is caring for stray kittens, something he says his son would have wanted him to do.
The families thank everyone for their continued support.