In the cross hairs

Tension among local residents is evident through a blaring police scanner which carries the constant sounds of a dispatcher alerting officers to the presence of a suspicious vehicle (a 10-37). These calls are sounded throughout the day and the police respond with consistent vigor and determination, despite the redundancy of the requests from dispatch.

Clues are sketchy in this sniper spree that has left nine people dead (as of this writing) and two people seriously wounded in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. North of the Potomac, Maryland authorities have focused on a small, white box truck with damage to the rear door. Here in Virginia, police have closed down all roads and interstate highways twice in search of a white van (possibly a Chevrolet Astro). If these shootings are indeed carefully planned, the evil doer(s) has selected the most common vehicle used by local contractors and business people. A walk around the block will reveal at least a dozen of these vans in any neighborhood.

The common denominator of these crimes is the complete randomness of the victims. This is what expands the terror from Montgomery County, Md., south to Massaponax.

There is no shortage of theories and speculation which run rampant in the absence of real news about the killings. One theory has an angry white man as the main suspect. Someone who, like Timothy McVeigh, is bearing some sort of grudge, perhaps from a failed military career. Another theory paints this as an act of foreign terrorism, possibly an al Qaeda alternative to hijacking planes or bombing buildings. Random acts of violence taking place over a long period of time perpetuates a constant state of fear as opposed to the sudden flash of shock set off during a sudden terrorist attack.

Living life in the cross hairs of a possible sniper attack has been trying on Northern Virginians as gas stations near the interstate see less and less business and shoppers fear the trip between the parking lot and the store.

Within this violent spree, however, is the unflappable human spirit. It’s seen in the folks who offer to pump gas for total strangers and station owners who turn their self service stations into full service at no extra charge. It’s seen in the vigilant attitude displayed by residents who help police by providing them with information through the tip lines. And it’s seen in the many residents who continue to go along with their daily lives undeterred by the prospect of random death.

This is more evidence that we’re all in this together from the police to the government to the public to the press. We must remember that as this threat goes into its third week.

It’s the human spirit that ultimately triumphs over fear and it’s the human spirit that will contribute to the end of this crisis.

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