NPR logo Family Connection Makes Ft. Hood Shooting Personal

Crime & Punishment

Family Connection Makes Ft. Hood Shooting Personal

Right after the Fort Hood shooting on Thursday afternoon, the whole Tell Me More team did what good journalists are supposed to do; we sought out the facts and mapped out how we could best bring the story to our listeners.

But in the first moments after the news broke, I had the awful feeling that there was something about this story I was missing ... something I just couldn't quite put my finger on. Then it clicked in the back of my mind.

My cousin Paul is stationed at Ft. Hood.

At that moment, I stopped thinking about my job and started thinking about my family. Paul is a good young man. He's smart, decent, hard working and honest. And while I was proud that he had joined the military a couple of years ago, I dearly wished he hadn't. My family has had enough tragedy, and the idea that one of our best and brightest young men would be in a war zone scared the hell out of me.

When Paul was deployed to Iraq, I didn't talk to anyone about it because I didn't want to think about it. That was the only way I could concentrate for those months while I was working here, where our network and our program regularly covered stories about service members being injured or killed.

In a way, there was a part of me that held my breath for every day he was overseas.

That part of me didn't exhale until this spring, when Paul was back in America, where we all knew he'd be Texas, at Fort Hood.

The hour or so yesterday between the time the story broke and the time I got news of Paul, I was in agony. I drove home crying, with gospel songs turned all the way up as I sung and sometimes shouted prayers in time with the music. When I got home and saw a text message saying he was okay, I collapsed with relief.

During that long drive yesterday, one of the things I swore I would do if Paul was safe was to reach out to our listeners, especially those touched by this tragedy.

Here's what I want to say:

I know that sometimes it seems like news organizations don't really understand, appreciate or care about the victims of war or crimes like these. I imagine that sometimes it looks like we're more focused on telling the story of the perpetrators of these crimes than the victims.

But I want to let you know that THIS organization is made up of people who do understand that every one of those victims was the precious son, daughter, husband, wife or friend of an untold number of people. And now that circle of loved ones has been plunged into unimaginable grief. In our work, we're doing everything we can to recognize that loss and to honor their lives. And if at any moment, you feel we're falling short, please let us know, and give us the chance to do better.

Take care.