Part of my job is to deal with death. It's that simple. We have a large response area here and if a Department of Defense aircraft goes down, we're there to deal with it until the owning organization arrives. I've posted about this before, so I won't go into a lot of background now.
Instead, I think that I need to publicly reflect (and worry aloud on the internet as it were) on what happened at Fort Hood yesterday. My husband was stationed there for 10 years and almost ended up back there recently, so the adrenaline rush of a possible near miss is still fresh in our minds. But we have friends stationed there.
And I haven't been able to reach any of them by phone or e-mail since we started trying to check in. Most of them live off post, but because this happened during normal duty hours and we don't really know where any of them were in relation to this event, well, let's just say that the longer I don't hear back, the tighter the knot gets in my stomach.
The cold logic in my brain tells me that on a post of over 52,000, the odds of them being victims are slim. The soldier and airman in my brain tell me that it still doesn't matter. WE were hurt yesterday. It was the same feeling that I got when, in 2006, we got word here at work that an Air Force C-5 Galaxy had crashed. Although I was in the Army at that time and had not yet returned to the Air Force, my Air Force career had been served at a C-5 installation. There are so few of them that, until we had more details here at work (including origin of aircraft), my stomach kept getting tighter...
The knot didn't loosen after we found that it was not one of "my" birds, but it did, finally, when we heard that all crewmembers survived.
I'm not sure that, even when I hear from my friends, the knot will unloose itself this time. Already over on boston.com, the trolls have come out of the woodwork to comment on one of the stories. And already, the e-mail traffic I'm getting on a personal level here today from other military personnel and friends is rife with fear - fear of how this will be handled in the end. Fear of how this will reverberate throughout the services. It's not, after all, the first time a Muslim member has killed his fellow soldiers, but it is the first time on US soil and the worst mass murder on a US military installation in history.
As the portrait of this soldier continues to emerge, the comments will only get worse and the in-house worry will increase.