Chris Hurst remembers how he and his girlfriend of nine months, Alison Parker, loved going to restaurants and taking hikes as they dreamed about their future together.
“We said to each other often that we wanted to get married and grow old with each other and spend our days together,” Hurst tells PEOPLE.
“We knew almost from the moment we started to date we would love each other forever,” said the WDBJ evening anchor. “We’d say, ‘This is too good to be true.’ ”
Yet, the days leading up to her death seem like a fairy tale.
“I believe God knew she was going to be taken this week,” says Hurst. “He made sure her last times on this Earth were the best of her life and I feel it was.”
On the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 17, Hurst gave Alison a black onyx ring with diamonds on it, a gift to go with the black dress she would wear that night on TV to present her special report on abused children.
It was also a promise ring, Hurst tells PEOPLE while breaking into tears. “We were going to get married and as soon as we were able to afford a ring I was going to get her a ring that was deserving of her.”
Two days later, on her 24th birthday, Hurst gave Alison a card that read: “My love for your grows each and every day, can’t wait to share an amazing life with you, but first, happy birthday Alison, your prince charming, xoxo”
Several days after that, on a rafting trip with her family along North Carolina’s Nantahala River, Alison turned to Hurst at a point on the river dotted with log cabins and said: “Chris, this is where I want to get married to you.”
“And now,” says Hurst, “her family and I have decided that that is where we are going to spread her ashes.”
“The grief comes in waves for me, and the waves seem like they are 100 feet tall. It’s not even that they are coming less frequently, they are coming all the time.”
Hurst first laid eyes on the stunning 5′ 9″ Alison when she was an intern at WDBJ during her last semester at James Madison University.
“She had this effervescent personality, she was a magnet,” he says. “There is no way that anyone could not have acknowledged her amazing, captivating beauty, which I was attracted to.”
After getting an on-air job at a North Carolina station while still in school, she was hired by WDBJ in May of 2014 as a television reporter and part-time anchor. Hurst eventually worked up the nerve to ask her out and their first date was on Jan. 1.
Alison’s Last Morning
Until they moved in together on Aug. 1, it was difficult on weekdays for Hurst, who got off work around midnight, to see Alison, who rose around 2 a.m. for her morning shift.
So he would often stop by and make her breakfast: a bagel and cream cheese, scrambled eggs with cheese, and a smoothie with mangoes and bananas.
Last Wednesday, hours before her murder, Alison left home with Chris’s big breakfast. When she arrived safely at the station, she texted him “Goodnight sweet boy.” Hurst learned of the shooting about 7 a.m.
“The first night I slept at our apartment, I got into our bed and I laid my head on her pillow and I cried out for her,” he says, “I could smell her on her pillow and at that point I could hear her talk to me.”
Recalling that night again brought him to tears. “I just feel it was important to share Alison’s story, that she died incredibly in love,” he says.
Since Alison’s death, Hurst has appeared on television numerous times. With the cameras rolling and the room around him dark, “I see Alison in her black dress with her hair all done and she had this way of looking at me and crinkling her eyes at me,” he says, “and giving me that look of love in her eyes.”
On Monday, Chris and Alison’s parents are hosting a celebration of Alison’s life.
“Her family and I were quickly in agreement that we would not be wearing – although she loved to wear black – she would not want us wearing black,” Hurst says.
“She would want us to be smiling and laughing and drinking and eating and listening to music and dancing.
“I want the world to know that while I lost her in the most painful circumstances, I am so grateful that I was able to be in her life for the last nine months of her life.”
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