The Untold Stories of Melrose is a series of interviews by two senior interns from Melrose High School, Freddie Kelley and Connor Locke, who have been working in my office for the past few weeks.
Alicia Reddin is the Veterans Services Director for Melrose, Wakefield, and Saugus, taking over while Veterans Services Director Ryan McLane is on military deployment.
In April of 2007, when I was stationed overseas, we had a workplace shooting in our building, and I lost two friends.
[It was] a guy who we were all a little uncomfortable around. He just had these social mannerisms that none of us were keen on. But we tried to hang out, tried to invite him out, because you don’t want him to be the odd one out. One morning we all did our morning formation—it’s basically like attendance—and we all went to our respective offices. It was a one-floor building with a set of stairs that went into the armory, where we keep all of guns, our weapons, ammunition, everything. He was a gunner’s mate, so he was in charge of all that.
Maybe an hour later, we heard gunshots at the back of the building. At first we thought, “Well, it’s the armory, maybe they were cleaning a weapon or messing around, but maybe, god forbid, something bad happened.” So some people came out of their offices to look, and he walked right into the building, with a gun in his hand, smiling, like the happiest guy you’ve ever seen. And he walked in and said, “I just killed two people, and I’m going to kill the rest of you.” And he was just so calm, so calm.
We sheltered in place, and you can see pretty far down the hallway, so some of us ducked and some of us covered, and he let off a couple more shots in the building. Luckily no one in the building was hit. But of the two people in the armory that were with him, one of them died. He was shot in the stomach and in the leg, and as he tried to crawl away, he was shot execution style in the back of the head. He was 25 with a two-month-old baby daughter at home.
The other guy was brand new, just out of high school, wasn’t even legal to drink yet. He ended up getting shot in the chest, just above the hip, and in the leg. They didn’t think he would make it, but he did. He never walked quite the same again, but they were able to get him medical attention in time.
It’s made me more wary of people. I try to be very upbeat. I try to be enthusiastic and I try to be bubbly. And my logic around that is, I need something to cover up the fact that I have that trust issue now. When there’s a bad guy, it’s different. But when it’s one of the good guys that becomes the bad guy, it just throws everything off.
You’re trained to not trust the other side. You’re trained to fully trust your side—your life is in these people’s hands. So when something like that happens, it changes everything for you. It changes how you see your relationships; it changes how you operate in the workplace. And for a long time, I couldn’t trust the people that I served with. I really disassociated with a lot of them over the years. And now I’m back in touch with some of them. But it’s not as easy. We have this shared thing that we lived through, but I think after seeing how someone that you trust so much can do something like that, makes you automatically have that issue with trust.
I’ve been fortunate that I work in a place where I’m comfortable with everyone. I’ve left jobs since I got out, because I wasn’t comfortable around the people, because I felt like something like that could happen again. But I am so fortunate because here, I really don’t feel that way. I don’t sit at my desk and worry that someone is going to bust through that door. And I’m fortunate, because a lot of people don’t ever get to find themselves in a safe place like that, or find themselves comfortable enough with the people they work with.