3’ELINE I KILLEEN Live from Fort Hood BY SUZY SPENCER I II ‘m blessed.” Those are the two most important words I jotted down as I stood in the courtyard of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s apartment complex, 27 hours after he’d allegedly shot dozens of men and women, killing 13. “I’m blessed:’ I wrote those words in black ink, on a crumpled piece of yellow legal paper, as I listened to Alice Thompson, the apartment manager. The phrase is simple, yet in this context confounding. Thompson sat in a dark green plastic chair just outside her apartment door. Through her front window, I could see a fully decorated, full-sized artificial Christmas tree and hear her television set. Earlier she’d gone inside, then called to her neighbors, “It’s on TV. Come in.” I assumed she meant an interview, probably with her. A network camera crew sat on the steps leading up to Hasan’s second-floor apartmentnumber 9. A Central Texas camera crew prepped for a live shot in a grassy area that would become a shrine to the 13 dead. Uplink trunks hummed in the distance. I sat at a picnic table in the courtyard. The table’s white paint was peeling off like old Scotch tape. “Toy trucks,” I scribbled on my paper. Several were scattered not far from my feet. One was red and bigger than the others. In my mind’s eye I could see a 2-year-old playing with them, perhaps a 2-year-old like Kimberly Munley’s. Munley was the 34-year-old, 5-foot-4, tattooed mother of two and police sergeant who had charged toward Hasan, firing her pistol, as he fired his two pistols at her until she dropped. Seconds later, Munley’s partner shot Hasan while he tried to reload. Munley was rushed to Killeen’s Metroplex hospital, though no one would yet confirm it. As I’d walked in to Metro hospital sixand-a-half hours after the shooting, an exhausted hospital employee had told me she was going outside to hide in her car for a while; her throat hurt from talking to so many people. But she was smiling. I didn’t quite understand that smile at the moment. I thought perhaps she was simply being polite. Susan Kolodziejczyk, the hospital’s executive director of community relations, gave me the official rundown. Metro had received seven patients: one dead; two flown to Seton hospital in Round Rock; two driven to Scott & White in Temple; and two who had surgery at Metro, did well, and were in the ICU, stable, alert. Two were women, one of them in the ICU. Instead of dealing with mass murder and national press that evening, Kolodziejczyk was supposed to be dressed in a ball gown at the Metroplex Health System’s annual black-tie gala and fundraiser. With a Hooray for Hollywood theme, it had been expected to raise sioo,000. But half of the attendees wouldn’t be there. They were dealing with a killing spree perpetrated by an Army physiciana psychiatrist, in fact. Now they only expected to raise half as much. The money would be donated to the military families affected by the massacre. Beat-up tables,” I wrote as I sat outside Casa Del Norte apartments. “Mops. Brooms.” They leaned near various apart ment doors. “Grills.” Weathered charcoal grills dotted the courtyard. “Bikes.” They were chained to the steps leading up to the second floor where Hasan lived second door from the end, to my left, as I gazed up at it. “Can you believe a major, an M.D., lived here?” I said to a television producer sitting across from me. “I guess, if you’re not into material things.” I stared at the apartment doors. They were mismatched in fading paint and design, and not on purpose. One door was covered in footprints as if someone had gotten angry and kicked it repeatedly. When I’d parked at a convenience store just an hour earlier and jumped out to ask a man for directions to i8oi N. Fourth St., he’d said, “You looking for his apartment?” We both knew who his was. The man then told me his wife worked at Fort Hood. She’d barely missed the massacre, arriving on post minutes after the shooting had started. He graphically described the blood covering the floors, the tourniquets and strewn clothing. “You a reporter?” I nodded. He grinned, muttered uh-oh, and pressed his hand over the logo on his shirt. His employer had instructed him not to talk to the press. “You going over there by yourself?” “Yes:” “Well, don’t get out of your car. It’s not a good neighborhood:’ The TV producer grabbed his Blackberry and iPhone and disappeared. I watched the fall sunset transform the leaves and the grass into a golden glow. I wondered if that’s what heaven looked like. I didn’t really want to think about heaven right then. I didn’t want to think about the 13 dead. I focused instead on the apartment manager with her drooping eyes and her large, plastic insulated mug of liquid. She and some other residents were loudly complaining about the bigname press that had contacted them. They didn’t want to do any interviews, they said. But I got the feeling that they did. I moseyed over. “Do you have many majors, many M.D.s, living here?” They had many officers living there, she said, and pointed out their doors. “But he’s the highest-ranking.” Hasan had moved here in late July or early August 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 27, 2009
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