Fort Hood families jarred by shootings

For 15 long months, Kathy Heyman worried about her son, Patrick, fighting in Iraq. She breathed a sigh of
relief when he returned stateside unharmed in January.
But those fearful feelings all returned for Heyman last week when a shooter killed 13 at her son’s base
of Fort Hood, Texas.
"I was terrified. I just kept thinking, oh my God, oh my God," said Heyman, of Weston.
"After worrying everyday for 15 months, I thought he was safe on an Army base." (Photo: A flag
flies at half-staff at Fort Hood, Texas, during a memorial service for the victims of the Fort Hood
shootings on Tuesday Nov. 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Jay Janner))
Patrick, 24, an Army sergeant, was out in the field training for his job as a gunner on a Bradley tank,
and was no where near the shootings. But the chaotic scene on the base put many people on guard.
Heyman said her son had time for one frantic phone call to his wife, to warn her of the possible danger.
"He called and said, ‘I’m safe. Get the girls. Go home and lock the doors, and don’t open them.’
They didn’t know where the shooter was, or how many there were."
Though her family was unharmed, the incident stirred frustration in Heyman.
"I’m angry that something like this could happen," she said. "When they are in war, you
have to accept that it could happen. Then to find out this happened at home, where they should be safe.
It’s obscene. It’s scary."
Heyman spoke with her son over the weekend, when he reassured her that his family was fine.
"They had a lot of debriefing," she said. "He’s doing OK. He’s a very strong young
But he is hurting for his fallen comrades.
"I think he feels badly for those people killed and injured," Patrick’s mom said. "They
are family, everybody there."
The base is still on "high alert," with the FBI, Homeland Security and Army investigating the
shootings. But the staff is back on duty. On Tuesday, when President Barack Obama attended a memorial
service for the fallen at Fort Hood, Patrick Heyman was on security detail for the president.
For another Wood County mom, the tragedy at Fort Hood gave her a taste of the inner turmoil she will face
soon when her daughter is deployed overseas.
Abbey McDonald, 19, the daughter of Vickie Grimm of Perrysburg, serves as a medic at the Army base in
"She was actually on base when it all took place," said Grimm, who works as a nurse in Wood
County Hospital’s emergency department.
McDonald, an Eastwood graduate, was in a training exercise, not near the shootings.
"Of course, we didn’t know that at the time," Grimm said.
Grimm was working in the emergency department last week when she got a call from a friend alerting her to
the shootings at Fort Hood.
"My heart jumped out of my chest," she said. "The world stopped spinning."
Grimm rushed to her cell phone, but all circuits at Fort Hood were busy. McDonald was able to make one
quick call out to her dad. "She said, ‘Dad, I’m OK,’" and then went into lockdown with much of
the base, Grimm said.
"We were glued to the TV after that," waiting for any bit of news on the tragedy.
Grimm realizes the anxiety she felt last week is just a precursor of what she expects to come next year
when her daughter is deployed.
"I had decided I wasn’t going to worry about that till the day she left" for overseas, Grimm
said. "Now that this has happened, I’ve got a little taste of what that probably will feel
Though her daughter did not know any of the victims personally, the loss is felt by all on the base and
their families, Grimm said.
"You feel sorry for the families affected. My heart goes out to them," she said. "I hope I
don’t have to live that."