- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2002

Many moms and their toddlers ventured out to neighborhood playgrounds and parks yesterday for the first time since the sniper attacks spread fear across the region.

A day after the arrest of two suspects, neighborhood playgrounds were bustling with children laughing and playing on swing sets and slides a sight not seen since the shootings began three weeks earlier.

Even the sidewalks of Leisure World Plaza in Silver Spring the site of the one of the fatal shootings Oct. 3 were speckled with youngsters as parents came there, a strip mall on Georgia Avenue, to run errands or drink coffee at Starbucks.

The mothers and baby sitters said yesterday they were glad to be back in the public parks and pushing their strollers along neighborhood streets after being cooped up at home for so long.

"It's definitely time to move on and get out there," said Kate Hudson, 24, a graduate student who was out in Old Town Alexandria with Thatcher Smith, a boy she baby-sits.

"This is the first time you don't have to look over your shoulder. It's time to get out and get on with life."

Still, some mothers remain cautious about where to take their children to make sure they are safe from any copycats.

Angela Krueger, 33, of Silver Spring said she is still nervous about allowing her 3-year-old son, Justin, to sit next to a window at a McDonald's on Georgia Avenue. So Mrs. Krueger switched places with him as they sat down to eat lunch.

"You can't take any chances these days," Mrs. Krueger said as she sat in a booth. "I know these men were caught, but you don't know who's still out there. Maybe there was a group of them; maybe there are copycats. I have to take every precaution to keep Justin safe."

Gilma Hernandez of Fairfax, who was out with her daughter, Jessica Marie, 4, at Mason District Park in Annandale shared Mrs. Krueger's fears. Mrs. Hernandez stood close to her daughter as she played on the slide.

"I want to be close to her, just in case," Mrs. Hernandez said, looking around. "I don't feel safe anymore. I don't think I'll ever feel completely safe anymore."

Natalie Juckovsky of Alexandria took Sara, 3, and Elizabeth Brady, 1, for a walk down the streets of Old Town. Mrs. Juckovsky said the two young girls had spent the past three weeks playing at home or watching television.

"It wasn't fun," said Mrs. Juckovsky, who calls herself the girls' "part-time grandmother." "They were not happy. We would go out at least twice day before the sniper. Then we cut their outings back to once a day. Today is a great day for them to finally be out."

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