“What the hell?” was my reaction as my co-worker asked if I had heard about the four shootings within two hours time that morning of October 3, 2002 in Rockville, Aspen Hill, Silver Spring and Kensington, all located in Montgomery County, Maryland. I rubbed my pregnant belly as I recalled that I had been in Kensington the night before at a parenting class by myself because my husband had to work. Believe me, it spooked me but I hoped it was some sort of random one-time event.
But it wasn’t. Later that night, a man was shot and later died in Washington, D.C. just across the border from Silver Spring, Maryland. And now they were connecting all of this chaos to two shootings that happened the evening before. One at a store window in Aspen Hill with no casualties and one a little while later at a grocery parking lot in Wheaton, MD where a man was killed.
Panic crept in and began gripping the D.C. Metro area. There was someone out there shooting people at random. For what? Why? Who?
The next day another shooting down in Spotsylvania County, VA in a store parking lot occurred where a lady was wounded. Then the unthinkable. A 13-year-old boy was shot a few days later when he was being dropped off at his Bowie, Maryland school. Whoever this asshole was, he had shot an innocent child and even taunted the police with a note left at the scene. I cried for that little boy, thinking of the little one growing inside of me. What kind of world was I bringing my child into? What a heartless bastard! Thank goodness the little boy survived.
If this monster was willing to shoot a child, I surely was fair game at my seventh month of pregnancy. My husband, who worked nights at the time, didn’t want me to go anywhere by myself. Believe me, I didn’t want to go anywhere by myself either.
Constantly scoping out my surroundings before exiting my car was wearing on me. Staring down every bush and tree. Sizing every person up as a possible killer. And to top it off a witness claimed to have seen a white box truck near the scene of one of the shootings. So every white truck I saw that fit that description unnerved me. This was my first pregnancy and that was daunting enough. I had baby showers and nursery decor to think about. I didn’t need outside forces to help make me more anxious.
As October 2002 wore on, more shootings and deaths plagued our area. It was truly terrifying. How much longer before the nightmare would end? How many more people had to lose their lives? And now they had dubbed this idiot the D.C. Sniper. Why give him recognition by rewarding him with a title?
Lucky for us, the shooters—now we know there were two—became cocky and arrogant, leaving the police messages and notes. Along with these mishaps on their part and some great police work, they were eventually captured after an almost month-long reign of terror in the area I was born and raised in. To add to the senselessness, they had been linked to shootings and murders in other states in the two months prior to their rampage here.
I don’t care to discuss the supposed reason or reasons why they slaughtered innocent people and terrorized many more because it’s all ridiculous to me. It wasn’t worth taking lives. During testimony, they even had the nerve to say that they had wanted to shoot and kill a pregnant woman during their spree. I was disgusted but not shocked.
The lead murderer was sentenced to death and executed in 2009 and the other sits in a prison in Virginia rotting away for life.
Ten years later, the people of this region still shudder at the thought of that heart-wrenching time. Even if you didn’t know any of the people who were killed or maimed, it didn’t matter because we were like one big family looking out for each other. Fearing together. Praying together. Surviving together.