- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

The sniper is playing whatever kind of sick game he is playing, while all too many residents in the Washington region interrupt their previously scheduled activities and scurry for cover.
Sorry. I am not playing this game. I am not hiding behind a tarp or crouching in fear while pumping gas. I am not zig-zagging on sidewalks or in parking lots. I am not curled up in the fetal position at home, too frightened to step outside unless it is absolutely necessary.
Not that I'm somehow trying to be brave. But really, what are we supposed to do? What are the alternatives? Are we supposed to take one long timeout until law-enforcement authorities nab this wacko?
Local school officials have sounded the right note. Schools are staying open in contrast to the initial shutdown of schools by officials in Richmond following the attack in Ashland, Va., Saturday night and the note left behind by the killer at the scene.
Would the children in the Washington area be any safer if schools were closed? Would teens not take off to the malls? Would children not go to the playgrounds? Would our youth not fill their sudden free time in countless ways that would place them at risk?
The ongoing postponement of all school-related outdoor activities is a harder call to make, if not an error on the side of caution. It is an odd juxtaposition. Schools are in the lockdown mode, like prisons almost, while many local youth leagues outside school jurisdictions are holding their games as planned. This seems to be a good thing, however unnerving.
Soon after the horror of September 11, President Bush made a plea to all Americans to go about their lives. Otherwise, he said, the terrorists will have won. The same sentiment applies to all of us in the Washington region, only it is the sniper who will have won if we remake our lives.
We are all targets, as Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose has said repeatedly. The killer's latest threat to children is a redundancy, perhaps intended to increase the fear in the region. After all, the killer already shot a 13-year-old boy in Bowie. He has demonstrated that he is an equal-opportunity killer, regardless of age, race and sex.
The cable news outlets, unintentionally or not, are stoking the unease in the area with their all-sniper, all-the-time coverage that eventually dissolves into a lot of hot air. Nearly every mental health expert in the nation is being put before the cameras to fill the 24/7 airtime. Most don't mean to speculate, but speculation is all they have to dispense.
Trying to understand the motives of a freak is a risky proposition under the best circumstances, and only then after the freak has been apprehended and put under a microscope. In this case, the freak is still out there, cloaked in anonymity, and whether he was dropped on his head as an infant is not apt to be illuminating or somehow consoling to the families of his victims.
Who he is? What is he? What is his agenda? Is he a homegrown nut or a nightmare conceived overseas? Chief Moose's appeal yesterday to the immigrant community to be cooperative with police is potentially one clue to his identity.
Otherwise, the rush to explain the unexplainable is the verbal equivalent of a zig and a zag. It led one expert on television to announce an admission of professional guilt following the shooting in Ashland. The expert, after studying the killer's geographical profile, suggested the next shooting site should have been where Routes 301 and 17 meet in Virginia instead of in Ashland. He did not say how he came up with that, or what help his expertise could be to law enforcement.
This is the filler within the snippets of news, much of it overstated in relation to the risks. To rework an oft-stated sentiment from the airline industry, you have a much better chance of dying in a car accident each day than by the sniper. This is not intended to make the fear less real, only to lend a modicum of perspective to the increasing anxiety gripping the region.
Living is risky business, more so with a sniper in our midst, but the alternatives to the risks are unacceptable. Stay home? Don't eat out? Don't hit the pub? Nah. I don't think so.
Halloween is just up ahead on the calendar, the night when children go door to door in search of treats. It is hoped that authorities will have put the sniper out of his misery by then, and with extreme prejudice. If not, at least one household plans to be stocked with sweets in anticipation of the squealing tykes in various costumes.
Even the cantankerous mutt on the premises plans to be nice.

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