Three years after the horrific shooting rampage at Fort Hood that claimed 13 lives and wounded 32, the local community is still struggling to find closure.
Undoubtedly, Nov. 5, 2009, is a day etched in the minds of most Central Texas residents. The memories of that day still evoke painful images and powerful emotions.
In some ways, however, the tragic event has receded into the background.
In the three years since the shooting, the man accused of the deadly attack remains in jail and has yet to stand trial. Ground still has not been broken on a proposed memorial for the victims. And the start of a fundraising run to Austin by one of the shooting’s survivors drew scant media attention and no other participants last week.
For families and friends of the shooting victims, moving on has no doubt been difficult — especially since the accused gunman has not yet been tried for the massacre.
Over the past 36 months, the victims’ loved ones have witnessed a seemingly endless parade of legal proceedings, filings and rulings connected with the defendant’s case before a military judge at Fort Hood.
And just when it seemed there might be some closure with the anticipated Aug. 20 start of the defendant’s court-martial, the case was delayed further — over the accused shooter’s right to wear a beard in court.
Meanwhile, a memorial to the Nov. 5 victims has not yet become a reality, though it has been more than two years since it was first proposed.
The memorial, which is planned for a site adjacent to the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, will feature 13 bronze statues memorializing those who died in the shootings. According to the project’s plans, each statue will sit atop a 4-foot-tall granite pillar inside a circular pavilion that features a large flag pole rising through the roof.
But while the sculptor has finished 10 of the 13 statues, a lack of funding threatens to stall the project even further.
About $150,000 has been raised for the memorial’s construction, but $250,000 more is needed to finish the project, and donations have slowed.
Completion of the memorial, as well as a resolution to the upcoming court-martial, likely will help provide closure for many in the area — especially the victims’ families.
But the quest for closure also continues for those who survived the carnage of that terrible November day.
Many of the survivors are living with the scars of the massacre — both seen and unseen.
Some live in constant pain, a reminder of the wounds they sustained that terrible day. One victim still has two bullets in his body, one lodged near his spine. For many others, the issues that characterize post-traumatic stress disorder cloud their daily lives.
Each one has a different story. Each one copes in his or her own way.
Last week, one of the survivors — the founder of the organization 32 Still Standing — announced to the media that he would run from Killeen to Austin, arriving on Monday’s anniversary, to honor victims of the shooting.
Sadly, no one else took part as the soldier started his “Remembrance Run” on Thursday.
In some ways, it is understandable that some would try to bury this horrible event deep in our conscience, to dim the painful memories of that day.
But we must never forget the people who lost their lives three years ago, as well as those whose lives were forever changed by the tragedy.
Mindful of this responsibility, a renewed effort to build the Nov. 5 memorial is needed. Perhaps the upcoming court-martial will serve to refocus our community on its importance.
As uncomfortable as it may be to acknowledge, the Nov. 5 shooting is part of our community’s history, as is the 1991 Luby’s massacre. The anniversaries of each painful chapter have been difficult, especially for those who lost loved ones on those dates.
As a community, we need to move past these tragic events, to seek closure as best we can. But in moving forward, we must strive to honor the victims and their families, to keep them in our prayers.
They deserve no less.