• November 23, 2014

With verdict, community can continue to heal

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Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 2:13 pm, Thu Jan 23, 2014.

With a guilty verdict handed down, many in the community hope those affected by the tragic events of Nov. 5, 2009, can continue to move forward.

“This person is not going to bring us down,” said Jean Shine, a local real estate agent and civilian aide to the secretary of the Army, of Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan.

On Friday, a panel of 13 officers found Hasan guilty of murder and other charges in the attack at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center.

Shine was among nearly 35 people in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

“We’ve all just wanted this over with for a long time now. Now is going to be a fresh start, a new chapter, for the survivors and the families of the fallen, and for the community, too,” she said. “It’s going to be taken care of.”

Victor O’Brien, a former crime reporter for the Herald, said it was clear to him the impact the shooting left on the greater Fort Hood community.

He covered the events of that Thursday afternoon, after hearing the words “mass casualty” on the police scanner. In the days that followed, O’Brien continued to cover the story by talking to Hasan’s neighbors and those who knew him.

“I got the sense of the complexity of him as this violent criminal living a quiet life in this apartment complex in a rundown part of Killeen,” he said. “I also got a real sense of how he’d shaken the community around Fort Hood and the lives he affected.”

While the guilty verdict came as no surprise, O’Brien said he was taken aback by Hasan’s choice to serve as his own defense. “I was surprised by how willing he’s been to accept responsibility and urge the death penalty as glorification of his actions,” he said.

“For me, because he’s so quiet in a lot of ways, it makes it really unimaginable what was going through his head that day and what is going on in his mind today.”

Former Killeen mayor Timothy Hancock was about a hundred yards away from the shooting when it occurred. Hancock and his wife, Maxine, were attending a graduation ceremony at a nearby auditorium when soldiers, including some who were injured, entered the theater.

They remained in the facility for hours.

“I think justice is served and we’ll see what happens from here,” Hancock said upon hearing the verdict. “It is still hard to believe and still sad.”

Amanda Kim Stairrett, who covered Fort Hood for the Herald and other local media for about five years, said she also felt sadness upon hearing the verdict, just as she did that afternoon and in the days that followed.

“If I could sum up everything I’ve covered and witnessed since that day, it’d be this: Remember their names, not his,” she said.

Stairrett spent two years following the story, and attended many pretrial hearings. Upon hearing the verdict, she said she felt relief.

“I think a little part of my brain that has been restless since November 2009 has slowed. I stopped following the trial and proceedings professionally once I left Fort Hood. It was too much. Watching organizations try to outdo each other in efforts to cover this incident was disheartening,” she said. “People directly affected have struggled since that day and you see how they and their loved ones are defined by what happened to them. ... They are the ones who matter, not the reporters or the perpetrator or the attorneys — it’s the people, the victims.”

Since that day, Shine said the community has tried to love and care for those affected to try and bring them some peace.

“Our community has survived this event, and we also survived the event of the Luby’s massacre,” Shine said, referring to the Oct. 16, 1991, shooting that left 24, including the shooter, dead.

“I think it brings us closer, it makes us stronger. This community is one that pulls together and supports each other.”

Even though there is a verdict, the trial is not over. The sentencing phase is underway.

“Now we await what the punishment will be,” Hancock said. “I hope it is appropriate for the crime.”

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