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Fort Hood Army Base Reeling From Attack

November 6, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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Kwame Holman reports from Fort Hood Army Base in Texas, which is reeling in the aftermath of a deadly shooting that killed 13 people.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We begin with extended coverage of the two leading stories of the day: the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas; and the nation’s rising unemployment rate.

First, Fort Hood — the casualties stood today at 13 dead, 30 wounded. All but two remained hospitalized. And doctors said some had extremely serious injuries.

NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our lead story report on the aftermath and the investigation.

KWAME HOLMAN: From the moment the gunfire faded, investigators have focused on the how and why. But, so far, there have been no answers from the accused gunman, 39-year old Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

Initial reports said he had been killed in the shooting yesterday, but it turned out he survived.

COL. JOHN ROSSI, deputy commanding general, Fort Hood: In the heat of the incident, it was — it was a lot of confusion. There was approximately about 400 people at the scene, between soldiers, civilians and first-responders, obviously, numerous wounded, some killed.

KWAME HOLMAN: Today, Hasan remained in a coma, still on a ventilator. While his motive remained a mystery, officials focused on reports Hasan had been upset over an impending deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Last night, authorities raided his apartment, looking for clues. They reportedly seized his computer. A neighbor said he had cleaned out the place in recent days, even giving away a copy of the Koran.

And surveillance video obtained by CNN showed Hasan early yesterday morning dressed in traditional garb for Arab men at a local convenience store.

WOMAN: Attention. Please shelter immediately.

The attack begins

Sgt. Salvador Rico Sanchez
U.S. Army
The next thing you know, it -- someone stood up in uniform and started to unload a weapon. And he realized it was serious when we started seeing blood everywhere.

KWAME HOLMAN: Just seven hours later, the Army said, Hasan opened fire at a soldier readiness center, where troops see doctors prior to going overseas.

Witnesses said he shouted, "Allahu akbar," an Arabic phrase for "God is great," and he fired a handgun again and again.

Soldiers scrambled for cover and blocked the doors to an adjacent college graduation, keeping 600 other people out of harm's way.

SGT. SALVADOR RICO SANCHEZ, Fort Hood: The next thing you know, it -- someone stood up in uniform and started to unload a weapon. And he realized it was serious when we started seeing blood everywhere.

KWAME HOLMAN: Once the shooting started, local police were on the scene in three minutes. Officer Kimberly Munley, first on the scene, confronted the gunman and shot him four times. She was wounded in turn, and was listed in stable condition today.

The attack struck at the heart of Fort Hood, the largest U.S. military base in the world and home to 50,000 military personnel and their families.

General George Casey, Army chief of staff, flew to the base today, and praised the way the troops had responded.

GENERAL GEORGE CASEY, chief of staff, Army: I talked to a young private who was sitting in his pickup truck in the parking lot who heard gunshots, went back after his buddies.

KWAME HOLMAN: But there was also fear, as many had to wait hours to hear from their loved ones inside the base.

TONI BRYANT: And when I answered the phone, I heard a little static in the background. And I just said, "Jordan?" And he said "Yes, ma'am." So, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.

Attack seen as betrayal

Rachael Morris
Retired Businesswoman
I am appalled and saddened. And I think it's something that we dropped the ball by not investigating him further when he was talking to so many people about his feelings about the war.

KWAME HOLMAN: For some soldiers and their families at bases around the country and the world, the attack was a kind of betrayal.

SOLDIER: We're not fighting a war with each other. We should fight the war over there.

WOMAN: Those people were coming home and getting ready to leave. They didn't expect to die today.

KWAME HOLMAN: Among those killed, 12 were soldiers and one was a civilian. At Fort Hood, and around the world, U.S. military men and women observed a moment of silence exactly 24 hours after the attack, 1:34 p.m. central time.

It also was an official day of mourning at Fort Hood and the neighboring town of Killeen, Texas. There also was anger.

Rachael Morris is a retired businesswoman.

RACHAEL MORRIS: I am appalled and saddened. And I think it's something that we dropped the ball by not investigating him further when he was talking to so many people about his feelings about the war.

QUESTION: You think somebody dropped the ball?

RACHAEL MORRIS: I sure do.

KWAME HOLMAN: For now, officials in Washington focused on tributes to the fallen. At the White House this morning, President Obama said the entire nation is grieving.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So, from now until Veterans Day, I have ordered the flags at the White House and other federal buildings to be flown at half-staff. This is a modest tribute to those who lost their lives even as many were preparing to risk their lives for their country.

KWAME HOLMAN: Aides said the president will attend a memorial service at Fort Hood.

In the meantime, the victims were remembered on the House floor today.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., speaker of the house: Our entire country mourns the losses of those who passed -- who were killed and are praying for them at this very, very sad time.

KWAME HOLMAN: And flags were lowered at the White House, Capitol, and around Washington, as well as in Killeen and at Fort Hood.