Upon hearing the guilty verdict in the trial of Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan on Friday, reactions ranged from the silent tears of victims’ family members to the relief of a community ready to move forward.
“It’s my hope that the conclusion of this trial will bring closure for all the families involved and for those who have worked so hard on it for all these years,” said Jean Shine, a local real estate agent and civilian aide to the secretary of the Army. “It’s been a long road, but it shortly will be over.”
Shine was among nearly 35 people in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
A panel of 13 officers found Hasan guilty of murder and other charges at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center on Nov. 5, 2009.
Victor O’Brien, a former crime reporter for the Herald, rushed to post that Thursday afternoon with a photographer, after hearing the words “mass casualty” on the police scanner.
“I understood the seriousness within 15 to 30 minutes once we got on post and got to the hospital and saw people being brought in,” he said.
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.”
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. While no one could have expected this event or what followed, she said there were some elements of covering the legal proceedings that surprised her.
“What surprised me the most was that Hasan was a person.
“The first time I saw him wheeled into the courtroom for the Article 32 hearing, I realized he was just a man. I sat within pen’s throw of him for days on end. I was startled the first time I heard him speak. I realized he wasn’t just a name in a headline or coming out of a TV anchor’s mouth,” Stairrett said.
“The same for Cahill, Caraveo, DeCrow, Gaffaney, Greene, Krueger, Nemelka, Hunt, Pearson, Seager, Velez, Warman and Xiong. They weren’t just thread on a nametape or numbered victims in an expert’s testimony. These were people who sat in chairs in a room on Nov. 5 at Fort Hood and didn’t walk out. They were gone and loved ones missed them so much they didn’t know what to do,” she said.
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 will begin Monday.
“Now we await what the punishment will be,” Hancock said. “I hope it is appropriate for the crime.”
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.