KILLEEN, Texas-Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan stopped at a 7-Eleven convenience store early last Thursday morning for hash browns and coffee before committing what's believed to be the single greatest act of soldier-on-soldier violence in U.S. history. A mile and a half away, at another 7-Eleven just outside Fort Hood's main gate, 10 Ford 15-passenger vans topped off their tanks.
The white unmarked vans, driven in from out of town, will be used to transport families of the 12 soldiers and one civilian Hasan gunned down Thursday to memorial services scheduled for Tuesday. President and Mrs. Obama are expected to be in attendance also. But on Sunday the van drivers had the gas pumps to themselves. Killeen, the hometown of Fort Hood, seemed as dazed and confused as the motorists who navigated dense fog that blanketed both the base and the city Sunday morning. The quiet on Sunday morning belied the chaos and confusion that began Thursday afternoon.
Investigators say Hasan jumped on a desk in the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, shouted "Allahu Akbar," produced two handguns, and opened fire on a room full of Army engineers preparing to deploy to Afghanistan after Christmas. Nearly 10 minutes later, two civilian police officers managed to wound Hasan enough to end the shooting spree. In addition to the 13 killed, 30 were wounded in the shooting.
All Army medical personnel train for a mass casualty incident, or what's called "mascal." But as one former active duty nurse at Fort Hood told WORLD, "You don't anticipate using those skills in the continental United States." As emergency personnel assessed the trauma scene, the dead and wounded were flown or transported to four area hospitals. By Sunday four patients had been released, but others remained in serious or critical condition.
"Some of them are out of the woods, but some are so severe only time will tell how they will do," Dr. W. Roy Smythe, chairman of surgery at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas, where 10 of the most seriously wounded were taken, told Bloomberg News. "There is the possibility that some of these patients will be physically impaired for the rest of their lives."
The soldiers were undergoing mandatory Soldier Readiness Processing before their deployment-which includes getting necessary immunizations, dental check-ups, prescription refills, and drafting wills and powers of attorney or finalizing financial arrangements for their long absences. For those tasks they are unarmed and without protective gear.
On Sunday, American flags across the Killeen flew at half-staff, as they were at the White House, where the president ordered flags to remain so through Wednesday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, when Killeen is normally the site of a sizeable Veterans Day parade.
Across the city, businesses quickly turned to remembrance and condolences. A Bush's Chicken sign read, "Praying for Fort Hood all day." Across the street, the First Texas Bank added, "To the wounded and families of the fallen, you're in our thoughts and prayers."
At the chapel on base, Army chaplain Col. Frank Jackson asked congregants to pray not only for victims but also for the perpetrator of the bloody rampage. At Memorial Baptist Church, parishioners wept as Pastor Ken Cavey drew parallels to 9/11.
Churches in the area held prayer vigils. On Friday night, Bob Butler, chairman of Central Christian Church near the base, started building a memorial of 30 flags (for the wounded) and 13 white crosses (for the deceased). Older soldiers arrived in uniform for the previously scheduled Veterans Day service, saluting each other in the parking lot but speaking little. Inside Pastor Mark Bushor paid honor not only to the old soldiers but also to Hasan's 13 victims, who won't have the chance to grow old.
"What I say to you all as your pastor," Bushor began, "is that instead of asking the why question right now, ask the who question. The only one who can bring us through is God."
-with reporting by Mindy Belz, in Washington, D.C.