Fort Hood officials plan to demolish the medical building where 13 people were killed and more than 30 others were wounded during a shooting rampage by a Muslim jihadist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, four years ago, a spokesman for the Texas military base said Wednesday.
Military Times Building 42003 had been fenced off as a crime scene since Nov. 5, 2009, when Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan attacked his fellow soldiers as they waited inside the crowded building. Army investigators returned the facility to Fort Hood officials after Hasan was convicted and sentenced to death earlier this year, spokesman Chris Haug said.
Haug said officials haven’t decided what to do with the site once the building is removed, and opinions differ among survivors and the families of those killed. Some don’t want to see the building torn down.
“We forget, and we can’t afford to do that,” said Kathy Platoni, an Army reservist who saw her friend, Capt. John Gaffaney, bleed to death. “This stands for something that needs to be in the conscience and the conscious minds of the American populace, and I feel very strongly about that.”
George Stratton Jr., whose son George Stratton III was wounded, said the building should stand as a lasting reminder of the impact the shooting had on his son, whom he said still struggles to afford food or rent.
Army Gen. George Casey repeated a mantra as he made the rounds of the Sunday News shows after the jihadist massacre; “If our diversity becomes a casualty (of the Fort Hood massacre) then that’s worse.”
“The thing probably affected him for the rest of his life,” the father said. “He had only been 18 for a couple of months. Being a small-time kid from north Idaho, he didn’t know the world was that ugly.”
But Joleen Cahill, the widow of Michael Cahill, a physician’s assistant who was shot while trying to charge Hasan, wants the building replaced with trees, benches and a plaque commemorating the victims. She said she also wants a few bricks from the building as a memento of her husband’s death.
“It was a piece of their final resting place,” Cahill said. “It’s a piece to hold onto, even though we don’t want the building still there.”
The building had been crowded with soldiers waiting to get vaccines and routine paperwork after recently returning from deployments or while preparing to go to Afghanistan and Iraq. According to testimony during Hasan’s trial in August, Hasan walked inside carrying two weapons and several loaded magazines, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” — Arabic for “God is great!” — and opened fire with a handgun.
Witnesses said he targeted soldiers as he walked through the building, leaving pools of blood, spent casings and dying soldiers on the floor. Photos of the scene were shown to the 13 officers on the military jury.
The rampage ended when Hasan was shot in the back by Fort Hood police officers outside the building, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. Hasan is now on death row at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
The four other buildings at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center site will be returned to use, Haug said.
As we observe the somber anniversary of the terrorist attack on Fort Hood four years ago, I would call on my colleagues in the Senate and the House to support the legislation Congressmen Carter and Williams and I have introduced to award the Purple Heart and related benefits to the victims of the attack and their family members. They have had to wait too long for the benefits they so rightly deserve. While we can never undo the atrocities of that fateful day, this is an important way we can show our support for the victims and their families.
Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act, legislation to honor and support the victims of the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood shooting. Sen. Cornyn was joined in introducing the bill by original cosponsors, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Jerry Moran (R-KS). A companion version of the Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. John R. Carter (R-TX 31) and Roger Williams (R-TX 25).