The first time their father saw my daughters in the real world, in life-after-NICU, it was just off Old Ironsides Ave. on Fort Hood. I drove the 40 miles from our house to welcome Daddy home from NTC, the generically named National Training Center in California, where he’d been in desert training with his Army unit in preparation for another Iraq deployment. It was June 2006 and the babies had been home from the hospital for a few weeks.
I breastfed my babies in the car, less nervous that usual as a brand new breast-feeder. I knew that the federal laws that held sway on base were clear about my right to breastfeed. Furthermore, any potentially objecting soldiers would back of the moment I waved the printout of the law I kept in my diaper bag at them. I’m delighted to report that I never had need to pull out that printout.
I have a love/hate relationship with Fort Hood. It is so very, well, military. It’s all squares and tan and straight lines. Vehicles with a primary purpose of combat are on display everywhere. Everyone obeys the speed limit. Everyone manages to be extraordinarily polite while swearing every third word. People called me Mrs. SGT Rod. I’ve always gone by Ms in the rest of the world and really prefer Sadia, but try telling soldiers that.
I haven’t been to Fort Hood since I got divorced. We still have a couple of friends who live in neighbouring towns, but plans to meet up have fallen through. Still, when I heard today’s news about the shooting on base, I felt that sick feeling I used to have when my now ex-husband was deployed and yet another casualty was reported on the radio. I’ve checked in with friends who work there, and everyone is accounted for.
Feeling close to workplace shootings isn’t new to me. For years, I worked on the 25th floor of the building in and from which Charles Whitman killed 14 people in 1966. A neighbor of mine was on base during the last Fort Hood shooting, although my husband at the time was nowhere near there, instead at a relatively cushy assignment in South Korea. Most recently, I was under lockdown myself during a student’s tragic breakdown. It never gets normal, though. It’s disturbing and surreal every single time.
I wonder, though, if we’re suffering from mass shooting saturation. My Facebook feed, usually on fire with thoughts, updates and prayers for whatever’s been in the news lately, was nearly silent about today’s shooting. The only people who even mentioned it were friends from the Army and friends otherwise associated with the military. When I asked on Facebook why everyone was silent on today’s tragedy, the response was that no one even knew it had happened.
I usually talk to my daughters about the news of the day. Their father has served in two wars. They’re not ignorant of the ugliness present in the world. They know in vague terms about what’s going on in Syria and Ukraine. J followed the search for Libya’s Gaddafi closely.
I think I’m going to keep the radio off or tuned to music for the next few days, at least when the children are in the car. Maybe, completely selfishly speaking, it’s a good thing that no one seems to want to talk about what happened today. I don’t know how to tell my girls about this crazed killing without frightening them. I have no answers, explanations, or comfort. I have no way to convince my daughters that Daddy is safe on his base or that I’ll be safe at work. I don’t know why or when to keep the news from kids, but I will this time.
But for a moment, let’s speak more generally, human to human. Four people died today, not far from my home, at a place that once was, for better or worse, a big part of my life. Many many more are dying much uglier deaths in Syria. You can spare a thought for them. It costs you nothing.
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.