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Shock and insecurity at Fort Hood

By Matthew Price
BBC News, Fort Hood, Texas

A prayer vigil for the victims of the Fort Hood shootings in Killeen, Texas. Photo: 6 November 2009
The community is trying to pull together in the face of such horror

Perhaps it is the children of Fort Hood - those old enough to understand - who are suffering the most.

One woman, who lives on the base, said her eight-year-old son came back from school the day after the shooting. Armed soldiers had been placed at the school gates and he was frightened.

His parents told him it was OK, that the soldiers were there to protect him.

"But wasn't the bad man a soldier?" he asked.

It's hard to correctly gauge the feeling on the base at the moment.

It is so huge it is almost impossible to get a proper idea of how people are coping.

You had gunshot victims everywhere, you had people trying to bring in ambulances - trying to triage, helping to secure the crime scene
Srg Andrew Hagerman, Fort Hood

The true agony, anguish and anger are hidden well away. Behind front doors, within tight-knit circles.

But those on the inside say it's sombre. That what they notice is the police - everywhere. A sense of shock.

'Like war zones'

It's not just the children who sense a loss of security.

The soldiers the military offered up for interview spoke of how the community had pulled together in the face of such horror.

"You had gunshot victims everywhere," said Sgt Andrew Hagerman. "You had people trying to bring in ambulances. Trying to triage. Helping to secure the crime scene."

Many soldiers said they treated it just like the war zones they had visited.

But this wasn't Iraq or Afghanistan. It was a protected US military base, home to more than 40,000 soldiers.

A place that was meant to be out of harm's way.

One of the nurses who helped the injured at the base hospital, Janet Di Palma, has a son-in-law in Iraq. She says she worries about him all the time.

As news of the shooting spread, though, the tables turned.

"He was calling yesterday, finding out all about us," Ms Di Palma said. "You start to wonder, what else could happen?"

Muslim fears

The answer to that may lie in a hospital room not far from the base. The room where Nidal Malik Hasan, the US-born Muslim major who is alleged to have killed so many, is breathing with help from a ventilator.

US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan
Maj Hasan is in stable condition in the intensive care unit

There is an unspoken question here: was he simply some disturbed individual, or was there something more sinister behind the shooting spree?

The answer to that will affect much.

Many Muslim Americans fear their religion may be blamed, either implicitly or explicitly, for the tragedy. That they may experience racism as a result.

As one Muslim American woman put it, voicing the thoughts of many: "I really hoped he wouldn't turn out to be a Muslim."



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