Real life experience from Maryland
This was probably the most terrifying time to live in the Washington, D.C. area. Approximately a year after 9/11, which was the worse attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor and the Oklahoma City bombing, we were once again in fear. Many people remember the words of the former leader, Osama Bin Laden, who claimed that one of his goals was to sabotage and bankrupt the United States. For many citizens living in this area, we all began to think that maybe this is the second part of his planned attack on America. However, for three weeks, we all lived in stress and with extreme uncertainty of what will happen and who will be the next victim of the DC Sniper. I remember I had just finished my year long tour at the Pentagon and Ft. Stewart, Georgia when all this started. During this time I remember getting a call or somehow being told that the National Guard was a possibility of being called out if these sniper attacks continued for a certain period of time.
Thinking of going back in full military gear to catch one or many snipers terrorizing the area was not appealing, but motivating because I wanted this to end just as badly as anyone else. How could you go through life not knowing that you will be the next sniper victim and be able to concentrate on your daily activities? I remember seeing most gas stations being less populated, and most within the Montgomery County area were either not being used or if they had people there, they were very quick. My fear was being at a gas station when or if the shots rang out and one of them strike the hose of a gas pump. At that point we would all either go up in huge flames or gasoline would just contaminate everyone, putting us in massive risk for a static charge to ignite us. Each time I went and got gas I had my head on a swivel to see if I could find anything or see anyone that would spark my attention. I never saw anything during this period.
One of my most memorial times during this stessful moment was when I entered the Capital Beltway, Interstate 495 and 95, and saw a massive back-up. There was nothing but brake lights all up and down both sides of the beltway with county and state police cruisers flying by us with their lights and sirens blarring. Nearly any suspicious vehicle that matched a previous description or any white box truck that looked suspicious were stopped anywhere they were. So if you had a white box truck in the area at the time, I felt sorry for you because ultimately you became a suspect because of one eye witness. It was later determined that the eye witness who saw a white box truck leave the area of one of the shootings, misidentified a suspect. The driver of that white box truck stated he left the scene immediately because he was deathly afraid. So as he left the area, he sped off which made him look like a possible suspect. Victims dying at the hands of a sniper, and none of them were tied together or had any connection together, was extremely mind-boggling. Random killings will and can stomp an investigation from moving forward at the pace that is needed.
For the first time in my life I started to worry more about my family members being caught up in this terrorist act, and wondered how would I emotionally respond to that. I can thankfully say that none of my friends and family were victims of this brutal plot, but unfortunately, some can’t say the same thing. Since this has passed in our history timeline, other copy-cats have tried to mach this behavior in other parts of the United States. Thankfully the massive cooperation of local, state and federal police agencies worked well-together to solve and catch the DC Snipers before more death and terror continued. At one point I was thinking how would the world look if you have your National Guardsmen patrolling the streets with local and state agencies? What would’ve been our Rules of Engagement if we were to get called out? Would Martial Law be declared for the area? State of Emergency? All these things ran through my mind constantly as I was preparing myself mentally to go back into that mode for which I just left. I thank God that we were not used for that purpose and that we were able to left on standby.
I tell you, the not knowing whether you or someone next to you was going to be the next victim. Everyone was watching everyone and I’m sure police caught themselves respond to massive amounts of suspicious vehicles and persons during this three week period. Since that time it would appear that many people forgot that it wasn’t only stressful for the citizens, but for police too, who were tasked to solve this investigation ASAP. Some people began to speculate that it was probably international terrorism that was responsible, to complete their second part of the 9/11 attacks. All in all it was homegrown terrorism with one of the snipers being a veteran, John Allan Muhammad, who served in the first Gulf War, and a seventeen year old companion, Lee Boyd Malvo. Needless to say Muhammad would get the death penalty and Malvo would receive life in prison, which is what they were sentenced with after their days in court. Situations like these is what can transform an area and the police departments, but whether that be good or bad is completely up in the air. I think the area was transformed, but in some ways bad and in some ways good. I suppose it depends on the individual people you ask.