A 'tsunami' of stress afflicts soldiers
Nidal Malik Hasan...bought a semi-automatic weapon
The stony looks on the faces of the soldiers at Fort Hood, and on those of men and women in the surrounding communities, tell it all - they are struggling to deal with a mix of emotions from grief, to betrayal, anger and confusion stemming from this massacre at the hands of a US serviceman born in America.
A retired school teacher, Karen McCaskill, said the shock would stay for a while. "There's only so much grief the body can take," she said.
Father Richard O'Rourke, of the St Paul Chong Hasang parish at Hawker Heights, just outside the base, said: "We have suffered a lot of deaths in this area because there are so many serving, but we didn't expect this. This is meant to be the place where people are safe."
Beyond the emotional responses there are also some troubling questions to be answered by the military, policymakers and the public.
The early evidence seems to point not to terrorism or some rational act, but to Nidal Malik Hasan, the man in custody for the shootings, succumbing to intolerable stress caused by conflicts between his religious beliefs, service in the army, being exposed daily to tales of other soldiers' worst memories of the war and his imminent deployment to Afghanistan.
Even though he was working as an army psychiatrist, Hasan clearly did not recognise his own symptoms. If his colleagues did, they did not act soon enough to prevent the tragedy.
O'Rourke praised the army for its programs to deal with stress-related conditions caused by protracted wars. But he said he often heard from spouses of the reluctance of many servicemen and women to attend because of fears that doing so might limit their promotional opportunities.
After eight years of war in Afghanistan and people on their fourth deployments, the stress was cumulative. "You get communities flooded out with stress, and right now it's a tsunami."
If it is proved that Hasan had a breakdown, there will inevitably be questions again about gun regulation, although these are likely to be slow in coming - and probably not from the Obama Administration.
Hasan bought a semi-automatic weapon capable of firing more than 100 rounds in the four minutes the incident lasted. He bought the weapon, the same as the sort favoured by the Mexican drug cartels, legally at a gun shop not far from his home.
When the Herald asked the local congressman, John Carter, from Round Rock, Texas, whether the incident at Fort Hood raised the issue of regulating semi-automatic weapons, he replied: "That may be your opinion. I am from Texas."