- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Did you watch the wall-to-wall television coverage yesterday where a Bowie boy and a grown man cried for the same reason? The boy, a student at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, where a sniper shot and seriously wounded a 13-year-old student yesterday morning, broke down in tears in the midst of his live interview, telling the reporter, "I'm just glad my daddy came and got me out of school."
The grown man, a father himself, unsuccessfully fought back the tear that crept down his cheek in the midst of a live interview in which he told reporters, "I guess it's getting really, really personal now."
That man was Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose, who was brought to the emotional brink when he talked about the latest incident in a shooting spree brought on by "someone so mean-spirited" that they are making target practice of men, women and, now, children.
The word "random" has taken on new meaning. Gone in the blink of an eye are a rainbow of ordinary people doing a "to do" list of ordinary things, killed for no apparent reason by a not-so-ordinary predator.
Still, this senseless terror is all so deeply personal. As one pithy plaque states: "To the world you might be one person, but to one person you just might be the world."
Now add child someone's baby, brother or buddy to the list of a madman's "innocent" and "defenseless" victims. Indeed, a sadistic sniper is "stepping over the line." A sacred line, Chief Moose emotionally and emphatically stated, that cannot be tolerated. Yesterday's school shooting has now been tied to the same gun that wrecked havoc in Montgomery County and in Stafford County, Va., last week. No doubt we are "at a level of fear we're not used to" even in the vulnerable Washington area.
When that amplified fear factor reaches "down to the children" and reaches up to bring Montgomery's top cop to uncontrollable tears, all semblance of safety is shattered.
It is clear that Chief Moose is a man who cares about his charges, especially children. But it is doubtful that no matter how dutifully law enforcement officers work to reassure us of their efforts to catch this killer, the frustration and fear in their own faces is unmistakable and unsettling. How, after all, are adults supposed to squash the fears of children, as the chief asks, when that same fear paralyzes them?
No longer are we so consumed with planes potentially plowing into high-profile buildings, but we are more concerned whether we can put gas in our cars, sit at a bus stop or drop off our children at school without either one of us taking a bullet in the chest.
When I warned my grown daughter to be careful as she headed out the door, she shrugged and responded, "I don't know how careful I can be if someone wants to shoot me." Adult children are no less our children, and no truer words had she spoken. For this sniper's shooting spree serves to remind us just how tenuous and how precious our lives are.
Chief Moose is right. We should do things a little different especially with our children.
We should sit down with them, engage them, talk to them and tell them that we will try to protect them as much as we can for as long as we can.
But we shouldn't lie. They need to know that tomorrow is not promised for us or for them.
The greater task is to teach them about faith. For we must find a way to be brave, not only for ourselves but for the children. Meanwhile, we are left to pray and hug those we love a little tighter.
Then, we must go about the business of doing what we have "to do." Still, it's all right to take a moment to mourn or merely cry.


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