In the flash of a news bulletin and amid the familiar wail of sirens, scores of Fort Hood troops and their families were instantly whisked Wednesday back to horrors past, recalling smells, sounds and anxieties they absorbed the last time such carnage erupted.
Another on-base shooting spree. More members of their tight community killed behind guarded gates. Another soldier at the trigger.
At Fort Hood, they refer to the earlier tragedy as “November Fifth” — the day in 2009 when former Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at the Texas installation, killing 13 and wounding more than 30 people. Now, they must add "April Second" to the heartbreaking roster.
“Your first thought is, ‘Not again. Not again.’ You just can’t believe it’s happening here — again,” said Marily Considine, a preschool teacher who lives and works near the Killeen base.
Her husband, Maj. John Considine, an engineer who returned from Afghanistan in February following his third deployment, had left Fort Hood about 30 minutes before the shooting began Wednesday. He was also at the installation in 2009 when Hasan embarked on his rampage.
"We will come out even stronger. People need to know: This is not an evil place."
“We prayed this would never happen again. We pray this will never happen anywhere,” said Marily Considine, 36. “You don’t want to say that as a military family you get used to loss. You don’t. But you always think it’s going to happen overseas, not here. For it to happen twice now, well, your mind just goes back to that day, to that other time. So again, we’ll see this community rally around each other, take care of each other. It’s what we do.”
Her 34-year-old husband was on the couch Wednesday watching local news coverage of the shooting and communicating to distant relatives that he was safe — not under a lockdown at work.
But in 2009, he was sitting in his office at Fort Hood, without a TV and with the phone lines too jammed to reach his wife. Back then, they finally connected via a call about three hours after Hasan was stopped.
“As a military wife, it's just as scary, just the same as when you hear of a death overseas. You sit on pins and needles until you to hear that your soldier is OK,” Marily Considine said.
Fort Hood soldiers were asked by their superiors Wednesday not to speak to the media. John Considine did tell his wife, however, that the moment felt “very eerily the same” in terms of the timing and substance of the earliest news reports: the numbers of wounded cited and ominous warnings the shooter was still on the loose.
"Your first thought is, ‘Not again. Not again.’ You just can’t believe it’s happening here -- again."
The Considines' house sits between the base and the hospital, Scott & White Memorial, where many of the wounded were rushed by ambulance and helicopter. They heard the sirens.
At that medical facility, Dr. Glen Couchman, chief medical officer, told reporters he felt similar pangs of déjà vu. He was at Scott & White in November 2009 when mass casualties arrived from Fort Hood.
“This is another sad day for Central Texas,” Couchman said. As in the 2009 attacks, he and his staff dealt with “a lot of unknowns early on, and it creates some logistical problems in how you plan for this kind of event.”
That sentiment of treading familiar, sad ground quickly reached Washington, D.C., where President Barack Obama paused to offer condolences to the Fort Hood families and reflect on all they have endured during the past four-plus years.
“Any shooting is troubling. Obviously, this re-opens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood,” Obama said. “We know these families. We know their incredible service to our country and the sacrifices that they make. … We’re heartbroken that something like this might have happened again.”
Courtesy Marily Considine
Army Maj. John Considine with his wife, Marily, on Feb. 4, the day he returned from Afghanistan to Fort Hood.
Authorities have launched their detective work to determine what drove Ivan Lopez, 34 — an enlisted soldier — to begin spraying bullets on the base. He took his own life with a .45-caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic pistol.
A U.S. military official told NBC News that Lopez was an active-duty soldier assigned to a Sustainment Brigade. He had recently served in Iraq and had been undergoing evaluation for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, who spoke to reporters late Wednesday.
“As a military wife, it's just as scary, just the same as when you hear of a death overseas."
But for the families on the base, there are the more urgent concerns over friends lost and of an Army installation that suddenly is gaining a dark national reputation.
“After Nov. 5, there were a lot of stories of courage and heroism that came out. We’ll hear those same stories of heroism and courage just like we did before,” Marily Considine said.
“Fort Hood is still an amazing place to be. There are so many good people here. And just because, unfortunately, this has happened here again, I’m worried what people will think. But, like before, we will take care of those in our family who suffered loss, who are in need," she said, adding: "We will come out even stronger. People need to know: This is not an evil place.”
First published April 2 2014, 10:08 PM