Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remembering The Scariest Three Weeks

Remembering the Scariest Three Weeks of Our Lives
October 2002
Jack and I agree that the three weeks in October that an unknown sniper was shooting people at random throughout the greater Washington D.C. metro area was the scariest three weeks of our lives. Looking back I remember telling Jack that I thought that this must be somehow connected to Al Quida since 9/11 had just occurred the previous year. How wrong I was. With the final capture of the two snipers we learned that it was a deranged divorced man with his youthful accomplice that he had persuaded to do his bidding who was doing this to get back at his divorced wife. I still can't figure out the logic in that but when you are dealing with someone deranged I guess logic goes out the window. After it was all over we also learned that this man was also wanted for ten more murders across the nation from the deep south to the northwest.
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Why am I discussing this now? Because the local media and newspapers in the D. C. metro area this week have been reliving the events of those three scary weeks since Virginia did execute John Allen Mohammad this past Tuesday night. Democratic Gov. Kane did not grant a last minute pardon. I agree with Gov. Kane's decision. I do hope that this murderer made his act of contrition before passing on and meeting His Maker.
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Enough said about John Allen Mohammad. What I want to write about for you is the sheer panic that griped everyone in the metro area for three long weeks. Jack said it was so scary that it seemed like at least six weeks of horror. You didn't want to be outside anywhere. All schools from elementarys to high schools were under lock down. No recess outside and no sporting events at anytime. Students were stuck inside all the time. Teachers were trying to keep students calm and on task while they themselves felt very anxious thinking about their next trip to the grocery store or to the gas station. Here are some of my personal recollections.
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The killings in the metro area started in Maryland but soon after spread to D.C. and Virginia and that's when our family and our neighbors really became frightened. We were instructed by police thru the TV media on some ways to avoid being a target. Like crouching like a baseball catcher while filling your car's gas tank so that the killer could not put you in his gun sights. But you still had to get out of your car and stand while putting your charge card in the machine or the gas nozzle in the car or back in the machine.
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We were told to not walk in a straight line across a parking lot to a building that we were going to enter be it a school, store or office building. One of our dear neighbors at this time was on crutches because of a leg injury that he had sustained that summer so one day his wife dropped him off in the parking lot of his doctor's office building and he was trying to zigzag back and fourth on his crutches as fast as he could to avoid being a straight line target.
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That October we were expecting Missouri house guests: Jack sister's Judy and his 80 some year old Aunt Corrine. Oh, boy, this is going to something I thought. I favored that we ask them to postpone their trip to Virginia but they had already bought their airline tickets so they were coming to Virginia sniper or no sniper! God help us stay safe I thought to myself while praying that dear Aunt Corrine could run fast from one tourist attraction or restaurant in a zigzag fashion to our car. Luckily for us the snipers were caught several days before Jack's relatives arrived.
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Each day brought more surprises as the snipers kept seeking new killing fields. After there was the murder down south in Fredericksburg, VA I warned Jack that I thought the Manassas/Gainesville/Haymarket area would be next. To my way of thinking they had already killed in the north, east and south so they were probably going to head west on #66 to our neck of the woods. And sure enough it happened. A man pumping gas on Sudley Road in Manassas was shot and killed. It was really getting too closed to home now since Jack worked part time in real estate on Sudley Road!
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Then we got some new safety advice. The killer was using the cover of darkness to hide while finding easy targets in well lit parking lots. People were urged to stay inside as soon as it became totally dark outside. Well, this advice put terror into our hearts because our younger daughter Jeanine was supplementing her first post college job income by working nights on the weekends at a local Borders bookstore in Manassas. She would have to walk from the building after closing around 10:00 P.M. to her car in the parking that was ablaze with lights. So we drove her to work, dropped off right at the door 12 feet away and told her to run zigging and zagging inside. Then we drove back at closing time and communicated by cellphone that we were once again at the door and she should now run outside the Borders store in a zigzag fashion to jump in the backseat of our car.
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The weirdest part of this story was that the supposed eyewitnesses kept describing the killers as making their getaways in a solid white old van. (At this point the public knew that there was more than one sniper doing this.) Now have you ever really noticed how many white vans are going down the highway? Well, only dozens and dozens and dozens. It seemed like every van you passed or every van that passed you was white and you kept praying at that moment that they could not shoot and drive at the very same time. But if one is driving and the other person is literally riding shotgun it could happen.
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At this terror point some folks were refusing to leave their homes for work or school. And other folks were heading out to places for work and recreation and dinner by stating that old adage: "If my time is up, my time is up. In the meantime I'm going to live." Jack and I tried this approach too but there were a few times I did imagine that I was in real danger while out and about and was wishing that I could magically be home and safe under by bed!
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I know many other people have lot more scary tales to relate. Like the person standing next to the man pumping gas in Manassas who later learned thru police interrogation of the killers that the sniper had both people in his sights and decided on the other person to shoot and not them. Saved by a few inches and a random decision of the gunmen. Other people spoke of just missing being at the latest killing location by just a minute or two. If I had not waited to arrive by one minute or if I had not left one minute earlier, I could have been the one shot and killed. I could be dead now. Saved by just seconds on the clock.
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But for the those who died during this killing spree and to their grieving families and friends the horror still exists today. So when the state of Virginia executed John Allen Muhammad this week I did not regret the state's execution. I hope the execution brings some sense of justice being served and some final closure to those who knew and loved the victims.

2 comments:

♥Kathy♥ said...

Joann I cannot imagine the terror you all must have lived through. I remember us watching on tv as this was unfolding. To be the person who wasnt shot and the person beside you shot has to be hard. I remember the person who was shot at the shopping mall. How one person could literally strike so much fear into this nation is beyond imagination. I will never understand the human mind who could do something like this.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Joann: That has to be an awful time to remember, the killings were way to random and senseless.