November 6, 2009 // Uncategorized

Texas bishop decries shooting rampage at Army base

BEAUMONT, Texas (CNS) — “We hope and pray that our soldiers do not die on the battlefields. Then something like this happens on one of our bases by a fellow soldier,” said Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont about the Nov. 5 shootings at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas that left 13 dead and another 30 wounded.

“What happened today is a tragedy. Our prayers are with those who are affected and their families, and I pray for comfort and healing of those who were shot,” he said.

The base, about an hour north of Austin, is in the Austin Diocese.

Msgr. Michael Mulvey, Austin’s diocesan administrator, said in a Nov. 6 statement: “All of us are in shock by the horrors of yesterday’s tragedy at Fort Hood. Our prayers and tears go out to the victims and their families. I have spoken with the Archdiocese for the Military Services and to Archbishop (Timothy P.) Broglio, and I have offered the services of the Diocese of Austin.”

Suspected in the shooting at the base is Maj. Nidal Hasan, 39, the Muslim, Virginia-born son of Jordanian immigrants who was scheduled to go soon on his first deployment to the Middle East — a deployment he had sought to avoid.

The shooting began around 1:30 p.m. The casualties took place at the base’s Soldier Readiness Center where soldiers who are about to be deployed or who are returning undergo medical screening.

Lt. Gen. Bob Cone said at a Nov. 5 press conference the shooter used two handguns in the attack. A dozen soldiers and one civilian were killed.

Inside the processing center, soldiers were preparing for deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Cone said he did not yet have information on which units were inside at 1:30 p.m., when the shooting took place.

President Barack Obama called the incident “a horrific outburst of violence.”

“These are men and women who made the selfless and courageous decision” to risk their lives in the service of the nation, Obama said. “It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.”

“We are all praying for those who were wounded and hoping for their full and speedy recovery,” said Vice President Joe Biden. “Our thoughts and prayers are also with the entire Fort Hood community as they deal with this senseless tragedy.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the shooting at Fort Hood “an unspeakable tragedy for the families, soldiers, civilians and support staff on the base. Our brave men and women in uniform train day in and day out to preserve our security. They should never have to face the forces of violence here at home.”

James Zogby, a Catholic who is founder and president of the Arab American Institute and a prominent pollster, said in a Nov. 6 statement: “We at the Arab American Institute are horrified by this tragic and senseless act of violence committed by a disturbed individual. We grieve with the families of those who died and those who were wounded. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

“We condemn this cowardly attack in the strongest terms possible and ask that the perpetrators be punished to the full extent of the law. No religious or political ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence,” said a Nov. 5 statement from the Council on American Islamic Relations.

“The attack was particularly heinous in that it targeted the all-volunteer Army that protects our nation,” the statement said. “American Muslims stand with our fellow citizens in offering both prayers for the victims and sincere condolences to the families of those killed or injured.”

Fort Hood is the U.S. military’s largest installation and the only Army post in the United States that houses two armored divisions. It’s home to the 1st Cavalry and the 3rd Corps, the Army’s official counteroffensive force.

About 65,000 soldiers and family members live on the post, which is halfway between Waco and Austin.

Chaplain describes ‘total chaos’ after Fort Hood shootings

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Two months into his new posting as an on-call chaplain at the United States’ largest Army base, Father Ed McCabe had the longest day of his military chaplaincy.

Father McCabe was 10 minutes into a weekly chaplain staff meeting at Fort Hood when the clergy got word of the shooting spree taking place at the base.

“We ended the staff meeting and came to the hospital and that’s where we stayed,” Father McCabe said, “because that’s where the wounded were. And then I went over to the crime scene to comfort the people who were there.”

Of the 13 who died in the shooting, Father McCabe said he anointed 11.

He said he didn’t have time to anoint the 30 wounded. “No, not really other than just a quick prayer. It was total chaos,” Father McCabe said.

“I was actually on call when the incident took place — actually not too far from my office, the crime scene site,” Father McCabe told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview from Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, Nov. 6, the day after the rampage.

Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, 39, a psychiatrist on the base, was suspected to be the sole gunman, who emptied two handguns in the attack. He was wounded, placed into custody and hospitalized.

A priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, Father McCabe, who holds the rank of colonel, had celebrated Mass at noon at Fort Hood, giving him about 30 minutes between the end of Mass and the chaplain staff meeting. The typical Thursday routine flew out the window once he got word of the shootings, which began around 1:30 p.m. Central Standard Time.

After going to the crime scene — a “soldier readiness facility” at the 65,000-troop base — “I went to the local hospital (Darnall Army Medical Center) to where the wounded were taken,” Father McCabe said. “One died there, a captain. He had been shot three times.”

The priest said he didn’t recognize any of wounded. “The wounded, they all had IVs in,” he added. “I just couldn’t see faces.”

Following the off-base hospital visit, Father McCabe returned to the Fort Hood mortuary to attend to the transportation of the bodies.

His day didn’t end until after 2 a.m. Nov. 6. “I had done an interview with the BBC in London, I think I should have gone to bed sooner,” Father McCabe said.

He woke up after a short night of sleep with a bad case of laryngitis. Father McCabe was waiting for a base doctor to treat him while talking with CNS.

Father McCabe has served as a chaplain for the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, but asked if he had witnessed anything overseas that compared to the scene at Fort Hood, he replied,” No, no, no, no, no, not at all.”

Father Adam Martinez, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Killeen, which has a substantial military component among its nearly 3,000 registered households, said he first knew something was wrong when “I heard the sirens.”

“My association with the sirens is tornado or bad weather coming. It was the middle of the day and there were no clouds or bad weather,” Father Martinez said. “I thought, ‘That’s funny.’ Just then the (parish) finance officer came running over and said, ‘There’s something going on at Fort Hood. I think someone’s been killed.’ That was what told me something was amiss.”

He scheduled a Nov. 8 memorial Mass for the victims.

“For two hours (after the shootings) there was a calmness and a quietness. No traffic,” Father Martinez said, adding that people were experiencing “fear — are we safe? … It’s affected the psyche, people don’t feel as safe. I think the psyche of the city itself has been changed.”

Asked if he knew of any parishioners among the victims, Father Martinez told CNS, “Not yet, not yet.”

The same “not yet, not yet” answer was given by Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Father Richard O’Rourke, pastor of St. Paul Parish in Harker Heights, Texas. He estimated that 80 percent of his 1,000-plus registered families have an active or retired military member in them.

“I was horrified and aghast” upon hearing of the shootings, Father O’Rourke told CNS Nov. 6.

“The news was pretty slow on filtering through. Then they (base officials) tried to confiscate the cell phones of some people,” he said. “They didn’t want any news to get out in case it was a terrorist attack. It wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that the lockdown was lifted,” which had included nine schools on the base.

“What we did here is that we immediately offered our 5:30 p.m. Mass yesterday evening as a requiem Mass,” Father O’Rourke said. Intentions for Masses Nov. 7-8 would be for the Fort Hood victims, he added.

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