Fort Hood Shooting Survivor Recalls Local Victim

Capt. John Gaffaney of San Diego was one of 13 people killed in the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood

Kathy Platoni can't shake the image of the man who died in a pool of blood at her knees.

She’s one of the survivors of the 2009 shooting rampage at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas. The friend who died next to her was Capt. John Gaffaney of San Diego.

Platoni is one of several survivors who will come face to face with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who goes on trial in the attack starting Tuesday.

Hasan will be his own attorney, questioning the very people he admits to targeting in the attack that killed 13 people.

Platoni just hopes she can keep her composure enough to support Gaffaney’s family.

Gaffaney, 56, of Serra Mesa, worked for Adult Protective Services with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Dept.

The psychiatric nurse, who worked with the elderly, was in a large hall with other troops preparing for a one year deployment to Iraq.

Everyone was unarmed. Everyone except Hasan.

Platoni had left the hall and was in a nearby dome-shaped building. Left behind were her friends sitting in a row of chairs. Then in an instant, lives were changed forever.

"I hear someone yell `allahu akbar,"' recalled shooting victim Shawn Manning. "Usually something bad is going to follow after that, so I look up at him and he started shooting. He probably fired five or six shots before he shot me in the chest."

For a moment, Manning thought it was a military drill using paint balls. But then he saw the blood pouring from his chest. People were screaming.

Manning crawled to a nook, trying to take cover. Too many people were there, and Hasan kept shooting him. So he played dead.

Soldiers running into the nearby dome shouted there was an attack. Platoni, thinking of her friends, ran over, trying to get through the doors. But other soldiers were already bringing out the wounded. There was her friend Gaffaney, bleeding to death.

The memories are "there all the time when I'm not otherwise actively engaged in patients or doing gardening," Platoni said. "It's something that haunts me constantly."

Hasan, a Muslim who argues he was protecting the Taliban from American aggression, was shot by a civilian police officer and is now in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the abdomen down.

About 10 minutes after the shooting started, the horror ended. And another began.

Manning spent weeks in the hospital and has since retired from the military. He still faces surgery to remove at least one bullet from his thigh and possibly one from his back. A few months ago, he returned to work at Fort Lewis.

Platoni deployed to Afghanistan barely a month later, setting aside the grief and trauma to do her job. She still works as a clinical psychologist for the military, as well as in her private life in Centreville, Ohio.

They are no longer relaxed in large crowds. Their tempers are more volatile. Platoni keeps a loaded gun under her desk.

A few of the victims hope that Hasan receives the death penalty.

Realistically, Manning says, Hasan may never be put to death. But that may not be a total disappointment. "Living in a cell, paralyzed for the rest of his life," he says, "is some sort of justice as well."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us