NPR logo Tragically: Killeen Has Been Through This Type Of Horror Before

Tragically: Killeen Has Been Through This Type Of Horror Before

Thursday's shooting rampage at Ft. Hood gives the adjacent civilian community of Killeen, Texas, a tragic distinction.

Killeen is bordered by Ft. Hood on three sides. The town and the Army post are inextricably linked. And now they share the despair left by gunmen killing as many people as they can.

Eighteen years ago, on October 16, 1991, 35-year-old George Hennard drove his pickup truck through the window of a Luby's Cafeteria Restaurant in Killeen. He moved methodically past upturned chairs and tables, shooting people point-blank as they begged for their lives. Hennard killed 23 and wounded 20 before turning his gun on himself. It was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history until Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007.

Some managed to escape Hennard's rampage. An auto mechanic threw himself through a plate-glass window and suffered deep cuts. But more than 20 others followed him to safety.

Hennard shot one woman dead then turned to her daughter and granddaughter sitting next to her and told them to run.

It was never clear why Hennard attacked. He was quoted mumbling as he fired, "Is it all worth it, what they have done to me in Texas and Belton?" He railed against women in letters and wrote "I will prevail in the bitter end."

As the military post and surrounding community struggled to respond, a sign went up on the edge of town. It simply said this: "Lord — comfort our town in our time of loss."

(Howard Berkes is an NPR correspondent based in Salt Lake City. He covered the Luby's massacre.)