When the shooting was over, and two victims had been flown to the hospital and the gunman was dead, the commander at Fort Detrick remarked that it was perhaps fortunate the incident was not more severe.
He is right of course. Tuesday could have easily gone so much worse, so horribly wrong. A man with a rifle in his hands, military personnel in danger, city police searching for a shooter and base defenders facing down a person who has already fired to kill — the potential for disaster is mind-boggling.
So, in that sense, we can breathe a small sigh of relief. But right now, that is little comfort for our community reeling from pain and fear.
The national nightmare, gun violence on a shocking scale, came to Frederick Tuesday morning.
Police Chief Jason Lando, who has just taken over leadership of the city police department, touched on this sense of bewilderment mixed with horror that so many people were feeling.
“Every time you turn on the TV, we’re seeing something like this happen,” Lando said. “And now it’s happening in our backyard.”
“All we can do … is assess our ability to respond, our training, our equipment, and make sure that we’re always prepared to protect the community. We always hope that we don’t get that call. Today we got that call.”
Chief Lando thanked his colleagues and fellow law enforcement agencies for acting swiftly and being prepared. We do, too.
That coordination and effective response, especially from the city police and the base police force, was a bright spot in a dark day. Within minutes after the shooting of two men at an office park off Monocacy Boulevard, the city police issued an alert.
When the gunman showed up at Fort Detrick, where he was stationed, the guards were ready for him. He crashed through the gate, but a rapid response team quickly stopped him in a parking lot.
When he got out of his car with a weapon, the defenders shot and killed him.
“The collaboration and synchronization with which they operated certainly was done [by the] textbook,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Talley, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command and Fort Detrick. “And certainly, ultimately, probably prevented further injury and loss.”
Now the victims must deal with the wounds they have suffered, both physical and psychological. Both wounded sailors were taken to the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore hospital. One victim was released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Navy said in a tweet. The other was reported in critical condition.
The Fort Detrick community will likely be dealing with its own mental wounds in the aftermath of this deadly incident. The Navy said it plans to send a special psychiatric rapid intervention team to provide mental health support to the Fort Detrick community.
And the Frederick community too will likely be affected by the echoes of gunfire at this beloved institution.
At the end of a very, very long day, Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor summed up the reaction of many.
“The Frederick community is in shock today as an incident of gun violence we see far too often in other communities has happened here,” he said.
“Today is proof that we are not immune from the same challenges that cities and towns across the country face. It is important for us to work every day, as a community, to do what we can to ensure we remain a safe and peaceful place that preserves a high quality of life.”
Well said, Mr. Mayor.