Fort Hood attack hits home for Fairfielders
The son-in-law of attorney and former longtime Board of Education member Jim Lee was on base in Fort Hood, Texas, last Thursday when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly opened fire, killing 13 and wounding 29.
Fortunately, Army Specialist Christopher Lowerson wasn't anywhere near Hasan when he began shooting fellow soldiers. Hasan was reportedly upset about the possibility of being deployed to Afghanistan in the near future.
News of the killings got out around 3:30 p.m. on the East Coast. Lee's daughter, Amanda, got word from Lowerson that he was OK about an hour later.
The two were married less than a month prior to last Thursday's incident at Fort Hood. They didn't have time for a proper honeymoon. Lowerson had to head back to Fort Hood on Oct. 12, two days after the wedding.
Amanda, in the back of her mind, worried about her husband when he was overseas from June 2008 to June 2009. She would never read or watch news about Afghanistan. When he returned to the states, she was in a calmer place.
"It was kind of a shock to have something happen when I thought I was in a worry-free zone," she said.
However, what happened at Fort Hood didn't really hit Amanda, who grew up in Fairfield and now lives in Brooklyn, until the weekend. It was then that she made her way up to Fairfield to visit her father and Lowerson's parents.
When Lee, an Army veteran, first heard of the shootings at Fort Hood, he was concerned about his son. However, he knew Fort Hood was a large base and was fairly confident his son-in-law wasn't a victim of the shootings.
Before Lowerson left for Afghanistan last year, Lee, a numbers man, worked out what the odds were and determined there was a 98 percent chance his son-in-law would return safe and sound.
When Lee first met Lowerson, he, as the "girlfriend's father," determined he had to act stern and aloof, and had to put on an act.
"By the time they got engaged, my reaction was, `Thank goodness, I can throw off this disguise, this act.' "
"I like him," said Lee on Tuesday.
Amanda was never in the military but her dad was, both of her grandfathers served, all of her great-uncles did, and her brother Benjamin is a commissioned officer in the Army Reserves, according to Lee.
Amanda and Lowerson knew one another in high school, lost touch and reunited about a dozen years later. Amanda, who is thankful her husband wasn't anywhere near Hasan last week, has been close to tragedy before. She was living in lower Manhattan at the time of the 9/11 attacks and was stuck in her apartment for three days.
While Sen. Jospeh Lieberman said early this week that what happened at Fort Hood could have been a terrorist attack, Lee buys the theory that Hasan, a combat psychiatrist who listened to many a war story, snapped under the stress.
"To me this is more like Columbine than the World Trade Center [attacks]," Lee said, adding, "I don't think a witch-hunt is the appropriate response."
Hasan, a Muslim who was allegedly harassed by some over his religious beliefs -- a fellow soldier reportedly keyed his car and ripped up a religious bumper sticker -- tried to get out of the service, according to some news sources, but was unsuccessful.
Lee said Lowerson had been in a barracks about 100 meters from where the killings occurred , but was re-assigned to another barracks days before Hasan allegedly turned on his fellow soldiers.
Amanda knows her husband is lucky. Other soldiers didn't survive Afghanistan or last week's incident at Fort Hood.
"It's a huge relief," she said. "We're incredibly blessed. Some families weren't as lucky as we were and you just have to be grateful and hope that there's a reason."
Amanda will next see her husband for the Thanksgiving holiday and he will be home for good, after what was a three-year commitment to the military, in March.