Shooting Spree At Ft. Hood Leaves Community Shaken
MICHEL MARTIN, Host:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
P: political mastermind David Plouffe. He managed the Obama campaign and now he's written a book about it, it's called "The Audacity To Win." He'll be with us a little later. But first, we focus on the shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas, yesterday. The alleged gunman, Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan, reportedly killed at least a dozen people and wounded 30 others. It was the worst mass shooting ever at a domestic U.S. military installation.
In a moment, we'll hear from a local Muslim leader who lives near Fort Hood about how Muslims in the area are reacting to the tragedy. We're asking because the alleged shooter is a Muslim-American. But first, Terry Whitley, senior pastor of the Grace Christian Center, a large congregation in Killeen, Texas. That's the city adjacent to Fort Hood. Many of Pastor Whitley's congregants are members of the military or are part of the military family, as it were. And chaplains from Grace Christian Center have been out in the community helping local residents get through this very difficult time and we're pleased that Pastor Whitley was able to join us. Thank you for joining us.
TERRY WHITLEY: You're welcome, Michel. Good to be with you.
MARTIN: How are you doing?
WHITLEY: I'm doing good. Still in - somewhat in shock. And, you know - and somewhat bewildered as by what has happened in our community.
MARTIN: What have the last 24 hours been like?
WHITLEY: It is a range of emotions for me and most of the people that I'm talking about and talking to. They are very, very concerned and shocked at this incident.
MARTIN: How did you hear about what happened? How did the word reach you?
WHITLEY: Word reached me from my office. I was out of the office yesterday afternoon. It was about 1:20 Central time and they called me on my cell phone and told me what was happening at Fort Hood at that time.
MARTIN: What kinds of support are people needing right now? What are members of your congregation doing with and for, to help each other through this?
WHITLEY: Just making ourself available and obviously we have a lot of contacts with the Fort Hood community and relationships, and right now we're making ourselves available through different agencies - is anything we can do. Our facilities stand ready to be used by Fort Hood officials, Red Cross - anyone who needs anything from us, we're standing ready. And that's what we're gearing up to do today, is to extend that help even further, as to how we can be of assistance particularly to the spiritual and emotional needs of the victims' families.
MARTIN: I'm thinking that if you're service member overseas and somehow you hear about this and you have family back home....
MARTIN: ...as awful as it is to be there, how awful it is to be so far away and wondering what's going on. Are you getting queries like that?
MARTIN: Trying to get word to people, to let people know that they are okay.
WHITLEY: Yes, we are. We are hearing that there is a good bit that - of course, a lot - we have about 25,000 troops from Fort Hood that are either in Iraq or Afghanistan, and that a lot of them have heard and had heard and are calling and text messaging and everything to check on their families. And so that is going on, yes.
MARTIN: And I think, Pastor, many people will recall that in 1991 there was another terrifying incident in this city - in your city, when a man drove through the window of a Luby's cafeteria...
MARTIN: ...and opened fire on customers and some 24 people died in that...
MARTIN: ...incident including the shooter. And I'm guessing that there are still people in town who remember that and I'm just thinking what it must be like to live through something else like that.
WHITLEY: Yeah, it is. I was very well aware of the Luby's massacre - was supposed to be there at Luby's at the time of the shooting and some circumstances dictated that I miss that appointment or I would have been there. And in hearing that news about the Luby's shooting in '91 - October of '91 - this is what happened yesterday is very surreal and very reminiscent of those days after that terrible tragedy and this is what's setting in now, you know.
MARTIN: And Pastor, forgive me, I just have to ask, how are you making sense of this spiritually. I'm sure that - I'm assuming that you are going to preach on Sunday.
WHITLEY: I am.
MARTIN: And what you are going to say?
WHITLEY: I'm going to collect my thoughts today. You're exactly right, Michel, I am going to be addressing my congregation and - about this terrible tragedy. I will be collecting my thoughts today and getting those, but I'm going to talk about where is God in these times. And I'm going to address, you know, to healing, to survivors and that what we we're to do as people who Jesus has called to be salt and to be light to a world, particularly in these times and, you know, we don't have all the answers right now.
And so many times we get, you know - what are the answers and we're not even sure what the questions are. But how that we can just - how we can be available and how we can be a healing force in this time to our community, to our brothers and sisters who survived this and all of the family and how we can help bring healing is what I'm going to focus on. You know, what do we do now?
MARTIN: Well, Pastor, our thoughts are very much with you at this time. You and all for whom you care at this time. So, we thank you so much for taking the time.
WHITLEY: Thank you, Michel.
MARTIN: Pastor Terry Whitley joined us from Texas. He's the senior pastor of Grace Christian Center, which is right near Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.