- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

The playgrounds were empty and silent at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, where a 13-year-old boy was shot and critically injured Monday morning.
The sounds of children laughing and shouting during recess were replaced midday by the drone of police and television helicopters, since all schools in Prince George's County were under Code Blue lockdown.
Parents served as crossing guards, and children who usually walk to school or take the bus came with their parents.
"Usually I'm embarrassed to walk around and hold my mom's hand, but I don't care today," said Amanda Wiedmaier, 13, an eighth-grader at Tasker.
Prince George's County public schools will remain under Code Blue today, with no outside or after-school activities, no field trips and no afternoon kindergarten.
Fairfax County schools have canceled outside and after-school activities, and afternoon kindergarten today, but some field trips will be allowed at the discretion of principals.
Montgomery County students are off today for a scheduled staff-development day. School officials will decide today whether to proceed with extracurricular activities.
Schools around the region reported slightly less than normal student attendance.
Prince George's County police Chief Gerald Wilson said that officers would maintain a strong presence at schools until the person responsible for shooting eight persons in the past seven days is caught.
Venida Gunzelman said her seventh-grade daughter, Caitlin, 12, chose to go to Tasker yesterday, where attendance for the day was down by a third.
"I wasn't going to force her. She wanted to come," Mrs. Gunzelman said. "But she didn't want to take the bus."
Caitlin usually waits for the bus near a heavily wooded area, and was afraid that the sniper could be hiding there. Mrs. Gunzelman drove her daughter to school and picked her up.
"I'll probably do it until he gets caught or until she feels safe, until we all feel safe," she said.
John Biggs rode his 13-year-old son Patrick's new red Mongoose mountain bike to school in the afternoon, to show his son that he can't be scared.
"If you meet this in a positive way, they will, too," Mr. Biggs said. Patrick, he said, woke up in the middle of the night on Monday and began to cry.
Barbara Holmstedt, a mother in her mid-40s, talked about the shooting last night with her husband and 12-year-old daughter Lisa, a seventh-grader.
"We told her that there are evil people in the world, and that as much as her father and I would like to protect her from all this, we can't. We can only do our best," Mrs. Holmstedt said.
Lisa said the sniper must be "someone who doesn't like people."
She spent much of the school day talking with her friends about how they felt and whether they were scared. She said she would stay inside that afternoon, but that she didn't think the sniper would strike in the same place twice.
Many parents, students and Bowie residents said they were not as anxious yesterday as they were Monday. Several said they were reassured by the police presence and national attention on the area.
But there were signs of panic. Starbucks instructed all of stores in the metropolitan area to remove outside seating, and security companies said they were experiencing a jump in business.
Michelle Haywood of Bowie had planned to go shopping at the Michaels crafts store and Safeway in Bowie on Monday, but waited until yesterday. She home schools her son Jet Lawson, 10, and her daughter Sky Lawson, 8, who were with her yesterday.
"I kept pointing out the police and the helicopters, so I think they're feeling safe right now," said Mrs. Haywood, who had been trying to explain the sniper's actions to her children. "This person isn't stupid and has a skill, yet he has wasted it," she tells them.
Despite efforts to face her fear, Mrs. Haywood was still struggling. "Even though my theory is not to live in fear, I actually drew my curtains for a little bit last night. I was scared and that made me angry," she said.
This article is based in part on wire reports.


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