Milaca resident Alair Quickstad was shaken when she heard Monday evening that the naval office building in Washington, D.C. – where a shooting with 13 fatalities took place earlier that day – is where her daughter-in-law Connie Quickstad works. (She is an executive assistant to a two-star general.)
But as the phone call continued, Alair Quickstad found relief, learning that the daughter-in-law had taken off the day of the shooting to celebrate her 52nd birthday.
Connie Quickstad is married to Alair Quickstad’s son, Steve Quickstad, who graduated from Milaca High School in 1984. Connie and Steve Quickstad – both retired from Air Force careers and now in government civilian jobs – had recently visited Alair while celebrating the couple’s 15th wedding anniversary. Alair Quickstad’s husband, Don, who once was an eighth-grade math teacher in Milaca, died 12 years ago.
Alair Quickstad learned of the shooting nine hours after it happened when she turned on the TV news at 5 p.m. on Monday. Someone had been trying to reach her by phone earlier about the news, but Alair was not at the phone to take the call. Watching the 5 p.m. news with her was a friend, visiting from Phoenix.
Alair remembers reading the headline on the TV about the shooting rampage and exclaiming to her friend, “Oh, my God, you don’t think that’s Connie’s building, do you?”
Then, about 10 seconds later, Alair’s phone rang. On the other end was Elizabeth Thompson, wife of Alair’s brother, Vic Thompson. The two were in a car traveling in the Gettsyburg, Pa., area, on their way to visit Steve and Connie Quickstad at their home in Waldorf, Md. Elizabeth Thompson explained to Alair that yes, the shooting took place in the same building where Connie Quickstad works, but that Connie had taken the day off.
Alair, after the phone call, decided to double check that by calling Steve and Connie Quickstad’s home. She remembers Steve’s first words: “Yes, Mom, she works in that building …”
“When I heard it was her building, I just shook,” Alair said. “You have to know Connie. What a sweetheart. To think of what could’ve happened – what a horrible loss. And my son, I don’t know what would have happened to him. Steve would have been a wreck.”
As Alair pondered Connie having taken that particular day off from work, she called it “just pure luck.” Alair said that for her daughter-in-law to take a day off from work “just doesn’t happen” as a rule.
Connie Quickstad, reached by phone on Tuesday, said it’s true she took the day off to celebrate her birthday, especially since her parents were in town visiting.
The gunman that authorities believe was the shooter died during a gun battle with law enforcement the day of the shooting. The incident began just after 8 a.m. in the Naval Sea System Command headquarters in the navy yard on the edge of the Capitol, a few miles from the White House.
The incident is being called the deadliest shooting at a military installation in the United States since the shooting that killed 13 and wounded 30 at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
Alair Quickstad said that once she confirmed that her daughter-in-law was safe, she felt “absolute relief.”
The emotions Connie Quickstad described having when she learned of the shooting an hour after it happened was “complete shock” and called it “surreal,” something she might see in a TV drama. She said she doesn’t know either the shooter nor any of the victims.
She learned of the shooting through a phone call at work in which the caller stated that the employees she worked with were safe. Connie Quickstad and the rest of the workers at the building were not allowed to enter the building as of Tuesday because it was classified as a crime scene. Connie said she didn’t know when the employees would be allowed to go back to work there.
“It’s truly awful,” she said. “It’s going to be very weird to go back to that building.”