At nine o'clock tonight, in the state where I've lived and played and loved for 18 years, a man will be executed. His name has always been inconsequential here. He is the Sniper. For a month in my daughter's tenth year, he terrorized us. It's hard to believe it all happened in the month of October 2002 because in memory it seems more like several months.
You had to live in the DC area that horrible month to know the impact the Sniper (and his young accomplice) had on us. Fear was a constant companion. We were told he was in a white box truck and suddenly they were everywhere. Pumping gas felt like Russian roulette. People crouched down by their cars or lay across the backseat while the gas was going into the tank. Exiting your car to go into a grocery store was like entering a combat zone, and many people ran rather than walked.
The impact on our children was enormous. They were just recovering from a plane flying into the Pentagon -- just miles from our neighborhood. Their psyches were already scarred by danger looming large and unexpected. Suddenly little ones knew the word "sniper." There was talk of canceling Halloween that year. My daughter's school bus pulled up as close to the entrance of her school as was possible and the children were told to run the short distance into the building. There was no outdoor recess. Softball games were canceled. The leaves turned red and gold but no one raked them.
I was on a business trip to Arizona when I got a frantic call from my babysitter that the sniper had shot and killed a woman at a Home Depot one mile from our home. My daughter asked me if it hurt to be shot. She asked how fast bullets go. She asked if the sniper would kill a child.
Tonight the Sniper will be strapped to a gurney and put to sleep. A man who valued human life so little will lose his own. It doesn't matter really, not to me anyway. He held us hostage in 2002 and he holds us still. My daughter had nightmares for years, and still is uneasy when she hears fireworks. October has never been the same since, and parents of trick or treaters still seem furtive and overly careful. He stole from our children their security and safety. He created a generation of children who know what it's like to expect danger at every turn and to see the constant worry on the face of their parents.
Tonight the Sniper will die, but he won't take with him the fear and the pain and the loss of innocence he leaves behind.
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