For the last four and a half years, Fort Hood’s Building 42003 stood frozen in time, mostly untouched since Nidal Hasan entered its doors and opened fire on defenseless soldiers preparing to deploy to war.
The building, home to a soldier readiness processing center, or SRP in military parlance, was considered an active crime scene until Hasan’s court-martial last year, in which he was sentenced to death in the Nov. 5, 2009, mass shooting, which left 13 dead and more than 30 wounded.
On Tuesday, a heavy equipment excavator began tearing the building apart, slamming into its red brick walls and ripping out its innards. The demolition is the first step in transforming the site: Fort Hood officials say the building will be replaced with trees, a gazebo and a plaque memorializing the victims.
The surrounding buildings will resume their role as part of the soldier readiness complex, where soldiers undergo medical checks and fill out legal and financial paperwork before and after deployments.
The building was part of a processing center complex for soldiers deploying and returning from combat. On Nov. 5, 2009, then-Maj. Hasan carried two weapons inside, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” – “God is great” in Arabic – and opened fire on soldiers waiting for vaccines and paperwork.
He was eventually confronted outside the building by Fort Hood police officers, who shot him and paralyzed him from the waist down.
Hasan was convicted in August of charges related to the massacre. He is on death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., while his case goes through a review at Fort Hood before it enters a series of mandatory appeals.
The building was sealed off for nearly four years until post officials announced in November that they would demolish it.
Not all victims and their relatives agree with them. Kathy Platoni, an Army reservist who saw her friend, Capt. John Gaffaney, bleed to death, was one of the people who called on Fort Hood to keep the building standing as a reminder of what happened.
Platoni found out about the demolition Tuesday in a mass email from the post.
While post spokesman Chris Haug said he believed family members and victims were consulted about what to do with the site, Platoni said Army officials had not asked her opinion.
Platoni mentioned other points of contention between the Army and the Fort Hood victims, including a prolonged fight for increased benefits and recognition due to what many victims say is a terrorist attack, despite the Army’s insistence that the shooting was an act of workplace violence.
“For the building in which this horrific event took place just to be wiped off the map before we have a say in what’s done with it seems like another slap in the face,” Platoni told The Associated Press Tuesday afternoon.
She described her shock at watching video of the building being torn down. Asked if the video provided any closure, she said no.
“I don’t think there will be closure until Nidal Hasan has left the face of this earth, and even more importantly than that, the families of the deceased and the wounded receive all of the benefits [they deserve],” Platoni said.
“Then there will be closure.”