Memorials Held For Washington Navy Yard Shooting Victims

Sep 17, 2013
Originally published on September 17, 2013 5:34 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel.

And we begin this hour here in Washington, D.C., where a clearer picture is emerging of yesterday's mass shooting at a Navy office complex. 13 people are dead, including the gunman, 34-year-old Aaron Alexis.

CORNISH: Police say they now believe Alexis acted alone, contrary to initial reports. We've also learned that the former naval reservist had been discharged honorably despite what officials call a pattern of misbehavior.

SIEGEL: Alexis entered the office building with a valid ID from his job as a civilian contractor, not with a stolen badge. And also contrary to early reports, the FBI said today that Alexis entered with just one weapon, a shotgun.

CORNISH: While investigators spent the day slowly piecing together the details, the nation's capital mourned its dead. NPR's Jennifer Ludden begins our coverage.

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JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: D.C.'s Cardinal Donald Wuerl led a Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of St. Matthew downtown. Not far away, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel laid a wreath at the Navy Memorial.

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LUDDEN: Ellen Ternes(ph) of Maryland paid a visit to the memorial. Her daughter is married to a naval officer, and Ternes herself worked at the Navy Yard many years ago.

ELLEN TERNES: It's almost unbelievable. My real question is how he got in with the guns. I just can't picture it. And I feel terrible for the people.

LUDDEN: Another passerby, Jody Hollingsworth(ph), is visiting D.C. from Missouri.

JODY HOLLINGSWORTH: I've taken my grandmother through the airport and it seems like there's extra scrutiny put on her. And it just seems like the scrutiny is not going where it needs to be.

LUDDEN: Along with questions about security, some wondered about the military's increasing use of contractors like the shooter. Others said the crime, once again, points to the need for more effective gun control.

Meanwhile, authorities released the name of all 12 victims from yesterday's shooting: Martin Bodrog, 54, was a Navy veteran who taught Sunday school; Richard Mike Ridgell, 52, a security officer at the Navy Yard who coached his daughter's softball team; Michael Arnold, 59, a retired Navy officer and pilot, was building his own light airplane; Sylvia Frasier, 53, worked in computer security. Her brother Bobby says she was committed to her faith and enjoyed helping others.

BOBBY: She's the kind of sister that would just walk up, hold your hand. We could be shopping. We could be just walking, very playful.

LUDDEN: John Roger Johnson was the oldest victim, 73. He worked in IT, and former colleague William Venable says he was unfailingly cheerful about their often tedious work.

WILLIAM VENABLE: He made you feel good. You know, he greeted you enthusiastically. He greeted you with passion. He greeted you like you were his best friend. He hadn't seen you in forever.

LUDDEN: Also among those killed, Kathy Gaarde, 62, a financial analyst whose Navy husband of 38 years says they were just starting to plan their retirement. Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46, a utilities foreman who'd stopped by the Navy Yard building for breakfast. Arthur Daniels, 51, father of five, grandfather of nine. His job installing office furniture took him to the Navy Yard on Monday. And Frank Kohler, age 50; Vishnu Pandit, 61; Mary Francis Knight, 51; and Gerald Read, who was 58.

Access to the Navy Yard was restricted today, with most employees told to work from home. But the rest of the neighborhood that had spent a day on lockdown started returning to normal. On the windows of one building, taped up sheets of paper spelled out Navy strong. And at the nearby stadium, the Washington Nationals played the game that was postponed last night in a double header. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.