Unless you lived here you will never truly understand the paralyzing fear that gripped the area. Every outing was a calculation of odds. I recall it fostered in me great empathy for Israeli citizens, who must have similar concerns about going to crowded markets or restaurants.
I’m not one given to paranoia, and I generally operated on the principle that, other than extra vigilance, there was little you could do to protect yourself. If your number was up, your time was up. That is a terrible way to live, but live with it we did for nearly one month. We were scheduled to go on a family vacation at the beginning of November, and as October wore on I could not wait to escape this area. The relief we all felt when the killers were apprehended was immense.
It was, in many respects, more traumatic to the DC area than 9/11 due to its extended duration. The locations where the snipers killed our citizenry were our everyday suburban haunts. Shopping malls, strip malls, and gas stations became potential killing grounds. I drive by the intersection where it all started a couple times a week and try to imagine the chaos and confusion of the day. Most of us remember the dragnets and the crushed feelings of security as the snipers varied their locations coming ever closer to our own neighborhoods. Living near a major freeway became a curse rather than a commuting convenience.
One year later the lessons to be learned are still not obvious. The old saying “live each day as if it were your last” comes to mind though…