FORT HOOD — Those in attendance Tuesday morning were quiet as the machine first ripped through the building — forever destroying the site where the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military post in history occurred.
“We just watched when the first gobble and bite got taken out of the building,” said Joleen Cahill, whose husband was killed in the now demolished Building 42003.
“There were also some tears,” she said.
Fort Hood’s Directorate of Public Works took down the building — a medical facility used as part of the Soldier Readiness Processing Center until Nov. 5, 2009. On that day, just after lunch, Nidal Hasan, then an Army major, went on a shooting rampage that killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others.
Cahill’s husband, Michael, was the only civilian who died in the shooting. Testimony in the court-martial revealed the retired warrant officer died while charging Hasan with a chair to try to stop him.
On the fourth anniversary of the tragic event, public works officials announced the other medical buildings surrounding 42003 could be reopened.
The area was fenced off and considered an active crime scene for years, pending the sentencing of the shooter. In August, Hasan was found guilty and sentenced to death. He is currently housed at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
After private deliberations on how to handle the demolition, Fort Hood officials announced it had happened Tuesday afternoon — hours after Cahill and others watched it be destroyed privately.
“Out of respect for the families, this was a private event,” said Chris Haug, Fort Hood spokesman.
In coordination with family members of the deceased and individuals wounded, Fort Hood officials plan to plant trees, install a gazebo and mark the site with a remembrance plaque, according to a news release.
All other buildings in the area will soon return to normal operations of processing soldiers to deploy or return home.
Cahill attended the demolition with two of her three children. Eight other family members of victims attended the demolition of the building.
Afterward, Cahill and her children placed 16 daisies at the site in colors of yellow, purple, white and orange to represent the various units impacted in the shooting, as well as the wounded, the survivors and the unborn child killed, she said.
“There were a lot of people who had wanted to be here today to see the building torn down but because of cost and other issues couldn’t be here,” Cahill said. “I’m very glad that the (public affairs office) did film it and those that want can see it on video.”
Watching the building come down felt good, she added. It also provided some closure.
“I don’t think there is ever real closure,” Cahill said. “Your wounds just heal to some degree, but they can always be opened up.”