Ft. Hood, the Texas base that was the site of the worst mass shooting on a military installation, shares a similar sad chapter with Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where one of the worst civilian shooting massacres took place.
In both places, officials will demolish the scene of the tragedy -- a common response aimed at helping people put the physical reminders of pain and death out of sight.
It was almost exactly four years ago, on Nov. 5, 2009, that a gunman walked into Building 42003, one of five structures at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Ft. Hood, and opened fire. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist who said he considered himself a militant waging war against the U.S. military, was convicted in August of killing 13 people and injuring more than 30 at the complex, where soldiers heading to war are processed. Hasan is awaiting execution.
Chris Haug, a Ft. Hood spokesman, told The Times that the building where the shootings occurred will be taken down. The timing remains unclear, but officials hope to pick a contractor this month to raze the structure. What will become of the space is unclear, but there are discussions about a memorial, Haug said.
“The only thing that has been decided is that they will bring that building down,” he said.
In removing the site of the tragedy, the military is following numerous civilian examples. Destroying such a site helps ease painful memories and cuts down on gawkers.
On Dec. 14, 2012, a lone gunman, Adam Lanza, attacked Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children and six educators before committing suicide. Lanza started his rampage by killing his mother at the home they shared in Newtown.
The school has been largely demolished and much of the debris trucked away. Other materials, such as mortar, bricks and concrete, are being fed into an on-site crusher, which is turning them into residue that could become part of the foundation for a new school. The destruction is proceeding quietly behind fences -- and that is no accident.
“I would have loved to have a ceremony thanking the Sandy Hook school for all the years of service it’s given to the town,” First Selectman Patricia Llodra told the Danbury News Times. “But that would have been a national event, reminding people all over again of what happened on Dec. 14.”
Deleting buildings -- or at least renovating them -- is endemic to tragedy. The Cleveland house where Ariel Castro held three girls as sex slaves for a decade was torn down and the space will become a park. Renovations followed the school massacres at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.; at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb; and at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
In 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV shot 10 Amish girls in a one-room schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa. Five died. The school was razed 10 days later.
Serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s house in suburban Chicago was demolished in 1979. He had stacked the bodies of 29 young men and boys there.