WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the few days Rouses Pointer Bob Fitzgerald has spent at the Washington Navy Yard, he has spoken with dozens about their experience in the Sept. 16 shooting.
That day, Aaron Alexis, 34, a computer technician and former member of the Navy who had been doing computer work for the military, smuggled a shotgun in a backpack into building 197.
Alexis killed 12, wounded eight and has left many others emotionally and psychologically damaged.
‘LIKE A TORNADO’
On Wednesday, Fitzgerald, a nurse with experience working in the mental-health field, traveled by plane to the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to serve as a disaster mental-health supervisor in the Navy Yard.
Fitzgerald is a volunteer with the North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross and also serves on the local board.
He previously worked with victims of hurricanes Katrina, Sandy and Irene.
“This is my first man-made disaster,” he said. “It’s amazing to me how much damage one mentally ill man can do ... It’s like tornado hit and killed some people in some community except there was intent and hate and all that involved in it.”
Fitzgerald and other health-care professionals from around the Northeast have made themselves available to servicemen and civilian workers in food courts and other common areas in the Navy Yard.
They have also employed the comforting presence of a therapy dog named Oscar, Fitzgerald said.
“People come over and talk about what happened and kind of sort it out a little bit. I would call it psychological first aid,” he said. “Most of it is just listening ... to what they went through.”
It is difficult for some to seek out help in a military setting, he said, but his team has made an effort to reach as many people as possible.