I would not wish death on anyone.
On November 5, 2009, we were going about our daily lives…educating children at a small elementary school at Fort Hood. It was a half-day, so for the most part our students had been dismissed, but we still had about 80 children in after-school daycare, and all of our staff and their children were still on campus. We received the alert warning to commence lockdown procedures just after noon. We could hear loudspeakers in the neighborhood outside as we locked down, and all of us took our positions in emergency locations. There was a lot of confusion about what was happening…despite the lockdown there were parents trying to get into the school building to pick up their children from daycare, but we weren’t allowed to release anyone, much less answer the front door.
Many of our staffmembers were getting updates from others outside of school who were on post, and we began to hear about a shooting. Based upon the news there was fear that the shooter was in our school neighborhood. The hours dragged on, and plans were put in place to feed the children with us, as well as the staff. The emergency plan worked well, and we did as we were told. We followed protocol pretty much to the letter.
Eventually we were given permission to leave, at nearly 8:00 that night. Our students were frightened and confused, and we had a storm of anxious parents trying to get to their children. There was a lot of hugging, anxiety, and relief as parents were reunited with their kids. It took hours to drive off post that night, and as we arrived home the news began to reveal what had happened all afternoon while we were hiding out in our school building.
One of “our own”…a military soldier and officer…murdered 13 people in cold blood, and injured thirty more. If you know anything about tragedy, you know that equates to thousands of individuals who were affected by the massacre. It took a long time, it seemed, for the media to finally classify the act as terrorism. No one who was on post that day bought the lie that it was a case of workplace violence. This was clearly pre-meditated, and the cruel execution of innocent people created a thick cloud of anger and grief over the post.
This was a place already affected by enormous tragedy. With over 100,000 troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, you could not ask a community to give more than they were already giving.
And yet. We saw military families reaching out to one another as only they know how to do…offering comfort, solace, and an opportunity to share shock, bitterness, and anger over this act of violence.
The shooter’s last words were “Allahu Akbar…” which translates to “god is great…”
I don’t want to know anything about his god. His words are blasphemous to believers of every faith.
I think peaceful Muslims worldwide would agree that nothing about his proclamation brought glory or honor to God. As a Christian, today I would say, “God is great…”, not because a man is going to die, but because justice was served. The price of thirteen murders is a death sentence---it is called punishment. While no one rejoices that a man is going to die, there is certainly a great amount of relief that a man who was found guilty through a thorough and fair legal proceeding is going to find that retribution is fatal and final.
So be it.
The day after the shootings, most of our students came to school. I credit their parents with this act of courage. They could have kept their children at home to hide out for the day, but they didn’t. They brought them back to us. We had a safe, secure, and solid school day, and they had a chance to talk with their teachers. We were briefed before school on how to handle the emotions and difficulties many of our kids would be carrying through the doors. We were asked to give our children a voice, but to allow them to be innocent of the brutal details. There were soldiers with machine guns at our school entrance, but our message to our children over and over was clear: we’re going to take care of you.
The murderer on post that day is no martyr. I hope we all forget his name, his cause, his fury.
Let’s remember every single person who gave their lives that day, and all those injured as well. Let’s honor every person who stood in harm’s way to prevent further injury. Let’s keep our first responders continually in our prayers. And let’s be grateful that a jury found the shooter guilty as charged, and sentenced him to
an unmarked grave.