Candle Light Vigil For US Base Shooting Victims

Visitors and families joined the servicemen and women for a candlelit vigil on Friday at on the huge US army base at Fort Hood in Texas in memory of the 13 people who died in
candle light vigil for us base shooting victims -...
PTI November 07, 2009 16:44 IST

Visitors and families joined the servicemen and women for a candlelit vigil on Friday at on the huge US army base at Fort Hood in Texas in memory of the 13 people who died in Thursday night's shooting.

At the vigil, husbands wrapped their arms around their wives, babies cried and old men in wheelchairs bowed their heads as several hundred people gathered at a stadium on the sprawling Army post, the country's largest.

It was the first gathering of the community since the killings.

One soldier First Lieutenant Anthony Simmons, said the entire army was directly or indirectly touched by Thursday's shootings.  Simmons said personnel from Fort Hood came together at the vigil in camaraderie, saying "we're all part of one big family - one family, one fight."

At a news conference late Friday, Army Colonel John Rossi, deputy commander at Fort Hood, said 23 people remained hospitalised, about half still in intensive care.

He praised the soldiers' quick actions during and after the shooting barrage, which he said saved lives.  Rossi said that the assailant fired more than 100 rounds and that his weapons were not military arms, but "privately owned weapons, purchased locally."

Law enforcement sources in Washington said records indicate Hasan in recent months bought the FN 5.7 pistol at a store called Guns Galore in Killeen, Texas.

Earlier, 13 flag-draped coffins departed for Dover Air Force Base and the military mortuary in Delaware, Rossi said.

Officials said the result of autopsies on the victims will be made available to the appropriate federal and military agencies investigating Thursday's shooting. 

They will determine if any of the victims might have been hit by friendly fire, something Rossi all but dismissed.  The 30 wounded were dispersed among hospitals in central Texas.

Authorities said several patients were still at "significant risk" of losing their lives. 

Many of the injured, including the main suspect, army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan, and the woman police officer who was injured in the shootout remained in hospital on Saturday, some critically injured.

Base officials said Kimberly Munley fired on the suspect just three minutes after the gunfire erupted and that her efforts ended the crisis.

Hasan, hooked up to a ventilator, was moved on Friday to a military hospital in San Antonio, Texas, while Munley awaited surgery to remove the bullets from her leg. Her husband was flying in from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 

Friends and families of the dead were still trying to make sense of the shootings.  One woman said her brother had told her he would 'jump in front of a bullet' to save a soldier.

"Which is what I believe he did, " said Leila Willingham, sister of shooting victim Specialist Jason Dean Hunt.

A mother told of the son who loved to play the guitar and go to the movies with his father.  Pictures emerged of soldiers saluting, soldiers in graduation garb or in party mode. 

The shooting spree began as some 300 soldiers lined up to get vaccinations and have their eyes tested at a Soldier Readiness Centre, where troops who are about to be deployed or who are returning, undergo medical screening.

Nearby, others were lining up in commencement robes for a ceremony to celebrate soldiers and families who had recently earned degrees.  AP

 
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