- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Yihedega Tewolde sits behind the counter of her snack stand, listening to an announcer speaking in an African dialect. He is talking about war in her homeland of Eritrea.
Miss Tewolde dispenses hot dogs, pretzels and cotton candy in the parking lot of the Home Depot in Rockville a store within a couple of miles of seven sniper attacks, and a chain that has been hit before. Her sister and children have begged her to shutter her stand, at least for a little while.
But she refuses to give in.
"I left my country to be safe," the 45-year-old mother of five said. "If this is not safe, where is a safe place?"
Miss Tewolde is one of a number of Washington-area workers whose jobs require them to sit or stand outdoors, making them virtual sitting ducks for a sniper who has killed nine persons and wounded three in the past three weeks. A shooting Saturday night in Ashland, Va., is the latest connected to the serial sniper who has kept residents in the Washington area on edge.
For some, continuing to live means living in the cross hairs.
Walking along Rockville Pike, Tim Goldsmith is literally a slow-moving target. He spends six hours a day, four days a week wearing big yellow circular disks on his chest and back for a local music shop.
"I've joked about it, OK, making a bull's-eye in the middle of the CD," he said, spitting tobacco juice on the narrow strip of grass he patrols. "I was going to hold a sign for one day: 'Shoot me, sniper.'"
Mr. Goldsmith took a week off after the shootings began Oct. 2, but he doesn't see much sense in going to ground.
"I'm not a teenager. I've lived my life," he said, world-weariness in his tone. "I'm 47, so I don't care so much now. Life ain't that great for some people anyway."
Besides, Mr. Goldsmith figures, the killers and he thinks there is more than one are looking for someone more middle class than he.
"The guy would even feel sorry for me," he says.
Down the road, car salesmen Matt Sullivan and Gary Hughes leaned on a shiny black Ranger pickup at Century Ford in Rockville and talked about the sniper.
Right after the spree began, Mr. Sullivan started spending more time in the showroom than out on the lot. But he decided he had to be outside to best serve the customers.
Mr. Sullivan said his mother is constantly telling him to "be careful, Honey." He doesn't worry so much during the day. It's the dark that gets him.
"Right now, I feel I have a view where I can kind of pan around," said Mr. Sullivan, 36, from Gaithersburg. "And if I see a white truck suddenly stop on [Route] 355 and some guy get out of it, I feel I have a chance to duck. It's at nighttime, after 6 o'clock when it's dark and you can't see, that I feel most vulnerable."
Mr. Hughes, 50, a Navy veteran, said he can't afford to waste any energy worrying about something he has no control over.
"All of this is just random chance," he said. "And I don't know if anyone zigzagging or walking fast or ducking or blinking or anything else is going to make any difference if you're in his sights. And so I just don't worry about it. I mean, if I'm in his sights, I'm in his sights."
Chris Morris, 29, of Rockville, who collects and hands out shopping carts in the parking lot of the Giant supermarket, is trying to adjust.
"I have no choice, I need the job," Mr. Morris said. "I just have to be alert, to be very suspicious of people."
At Touch Less II car wash in Gaithersburg, Robert Durst vacuums and details cars in plain view of Interstate 270 and busy Shady Grove Road. Except in the winter, he has always considered working outside as a bonus and still does.
"You get to meet a lot of people," he said. "You get the fresh air."
Mr. Durst's three children don't worry about him working in plain view, but he's worried about them. His 8-year-old son has taken to watching the morning shows for the latest sniper news.
"I don't want to be a victim without seeing who's victimizing me," he said. "You don't drink poison, but going on a diet of only 100 percent naturally grown vegetables isn't the answer either."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide