Soldiers Scramble To Aid Fort Hood Shooting Victims

A gunman, identified as Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, allegedly opened fire at the Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood, Texas, on Thursday. Thirteen people were killed and 30 wounded. The center is where soldiers get final medical and dental checks before they ship out overseas. Soldiers hurried to rescue the fallen.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

The Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood, Texas is one of the last places an American soldier can feel safe before leaving American soil. It's where soldiers get a final medical and dental check before they ship out to Iraq or Afghanistan. This is the place where a gunman opened fire, yesterday, killing 13 people. The suspect is identified as an army psychiatrist, Major Nadal Hasan - we'll hear more about him in a moment.

We begin our coverage with NPR's Wade Goodwyn.

WADE GOODWYN: As the shooting unfolded, Fort Hood reacted quickly. A woman's voice began broadcasting throughout the base on loudspeakers, warning that there was an emergency, that it was not a drill, that everyone should take cover. The base was locked down and family members began gathering outside the main gate. Young Alison Chamberlain(ph), seven months pregnant, waited.

Ms. ALISON CHAMBERLAIN: My husband's on post.

GOODWYN: He is?

Ms. CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, he was just supposed to be cleaning weapons all day. And then, you know, yeah.

(Soundbite of crying)

GOODWYN: Chamberlain was in a grocery store parking lot at the time of the shooting.

Ms. CHAMBERLAIN: I saw that first helicopter and I knew, I mean there was SWAT everywhere, cops, ambulances, you know? I couldn't call post; everything was blocked.

GOODWYN: Initial reports were that a shooter had gone on a rampage, killing those who were clustered in the waiting room of the Soldier Readiness Center. But there was confusion about the details from the beginning. How many shooters were there? One, two, three? As the hours passed, it became clear that there was just one alleged shooter, Major Nadal Hasan, and the military said he had been killed in the ensuing gun battle with police. But after darkness fell, Lieutenant General Bob Cone came before the TV cameras and delivered a shocker.

Lieutenant General BOB CONE (U.S. Army): The investigation is ongoing, but preliminary reports indicate there was a single shooter that was shot multiple times at the scene, however, he was not killed as previously reported. He is currently in custody and in stable condition.

GOODWYN: Soldiers hurried to rescue the fallen, reportedly ripping off their uniforms and tearing them into bandages. A casualty count like this in Iraq or Afghanistan would spur a national outcry of alarm. As Alison Chamberlain waited to enclose her husband in her arms, helplessness, anguish and a sense of isolation from the rest of America closed in on her.

Ms. CHAMBERLAIN: You know, what goes in your mind - where is he? I was just on post, I mean, this does not happen to you.

GOODWYN: In the all too brief interludes between deployments, life back on the base in America is supposed to be a refuge. But for the families at Fort Hood, that illusion is gone forever.

Ms. CHAMBERLAIN: They are suppose to be soldiers, like there's(ph) their brothers, there's a bond, you know, and why did they do this - I mean?

GOODWYN: Her hands cradling the child inside her, Chamberlain began to quietly cry, another soldier's wife put an arm around her and led her away.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Killeen, Texas.

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