Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vaya Con El Diablo, John Allen Muhammad

Vaya Con El Diablo, John Allen Muhammed


We lived in fear for 3 weeks. We huddled out of sight at gas stations. High school athletic teams played their games hours away, with no fans to cheer them on. We were told to run in a zig-zag pattern between the car & our destinations to make it more difficult for the sniper to get a bead on us.

John Allen Muhammad & his teenaged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, killed 10 people in the DC area in October 2002. Muhammed, on death row since his conviction in one of the murders, is set to die today by lethal injection.

My kids were 15 and 12 at the time. I came this close to sending them out of state, to live with relatives & to go to school where they didn't have the chance of getting picked off while standing at a neighborhood bus stop.

The DC area is not immune to violence. The first couple of deaths back in 2002, while mysterious, didn't register much of a reaction. Then we learned we harbored a home-grown terrorist, right in our backyard.

First, someone firing out of the woods in suburban Maryland cut down a bus driver. Then, an older DC resident was gunned down. And then gas station murders started to occur & the sniper-he always used just one bullet from an automatic rifle to do his dirty work-started leaving creepy, taunting notes behind.

Ella Numera Una played high school field hockey. The team, obviously, couldn't practice outside. So all the fall sports-field hockey, football, cross country, volleyball-tried to share limited gym space. The trackies made loops in the school's corridors. Indoor practices went until 10, sometimes 11 o'clock at nite.

Ella Numera Dos, a 7th-grader at the time, was just getting used to the freedom of catching the school bus up at the corner. After the local cops, however, established a pattern for the attacks & warned the general populace that a sniper was on the loose, Mommy & Daddy curtailed the child's freedom. We took her to school every morning, pulling up close to the front doors so she could dash in. We picked her up each afternoon, repeating the process in reverse. We couldn't be too careful. One of the victims was a local middle-schooler, shot as he left school. Fortunately, he survived.

Our Humble High School's Homecoming game that year was held 2-and-a-half hours away in Harrisonburg, VA. The only fans in attendance? Parents, who weren't notified of the game's location until hours before kickoff.

Other outdoor sports teams started competing in places like Richmond, about an hour from here. That was, of course, until the sniper went further afield & shot a man in front of a Ponderosa Steakhouse off the Interstate, near the capital city. The school district then moved games to an area Army post, the kids watched closely by soldiers who patrolled the perimeter of each playing field.

Then the DC Sniper shot & killed Linda Franklin at our local Home Depot. She was my age. She worked downtown in a government office. She'd gone to the store with her husband to pick up a rug for the house. She died in the parking garage. No one saw the sniper, the gun, the escape. Everyone saw the flash & Mrs. Franklin, lying on the cold concrete floor.

To say I was afraid after Linda Franklin died is to say that fear consumed my life. I started pumping my gas at the station that had draped its service bay area with a giant tarp, to make customers look less like sitting ducks. I crouched in the back of my SUV while the tank filled, hoping the tinted windows would shade me from the unknown assasin.

My terror came to an end one weekday morning, after dropping Ella Dos off at school. I had been having an internal debate over getting gas. I'd pretty much decided that the smidge left in my tank was going to have to get me to work. I willed it to do so.

The radio crackled with relief a couple of minutes later. The sniper-who turned out to be this man, Muhammad, had been picked up, along with a kid who'd been helping him wreak his terror. I immediately pulled into a local Exxon. I have to say that was the happiest I'd ever been while performing a normally perfunctory errand.

I go back & forth on capital punishment. I don't know if the death penalty is right, if it's moral, if it's the solution to the demons that haunt our souls. But I do know that John Allen Muhammad can't hurt me, or my loved ones, any more.

33 comments:

quilly said...

It is easy to say the death penalty is wrong when you have never lived with the terror of being a victim. You have lived the reality. I understand why you are relieved.

Kristin said...

I was in the middle of training for a marathon and promptly quit. My bestie and I put newspaper over our garden apartment windows, so there was no chance anyone could see in. I was terrified to drive to my job in the 'burbs. I remember. Boy, do I remember!

Cairo Typ0 said...

The sniper shootings occurred shortly after we moved from the area. It really started freaking me out when some of the shootings occurred at places I shopped or refilled my car.

Alicia said...

oh man, thats so scary...just reading your post gave me the chills. i can't imagine living though it and not being able to go about my daily life with out fear for myself and especially for my children...so terrifying...it must be such an emotional day for the dc area. you're in my thoughts...

BK said...

I agree with you on the part; I don't know if it is right or moral to execute the death penalty. But it certainly was a great relief to read that the man responsible for the heinous act had been apprehended and no more people will be shot.

Michelloui said...

This post had me totally engrossed--I remember reading about this at the time and feeling a fraction of the terror you must have felt. I cannot imagine what it was like, especially with children. How satisfying that he was found. Whatever the thoughts on the death penalty, at least you know he will never be out there doing it again to other people.

The Redhead Riter said...

I do not feel at all sorry for this man. I always think "What if he had killed my daughter?"

Any compassion I might have felt disappears.

Amy said...

Even on the tail of 9/11, the sniper was so much scarier. I think about it when I pass by the Ponderosa exit on 95 or just at random. Somehow I missed this being the execution date. Will have to go check out the Post.

Vodka Logic said...

Of course I followed the news during those horrible days but I have never read an account of anyone that went thru it. That was gripping and scary. I am so sorry you had to go thru it all. I can't imagine being that scared for mine and my loved ones lives. I am so glad you survived.

I am fully behind the death penalty . If they are sure this man murdered all those people I say good ridance and give him the shot.
xx

June Freaking Cleaver said...

I hope the victims' families can take some comfort in the execution today...but I can only assume that it will be cold and cruel, much like the man who perpetuated the crimes.

Aunt Julie said...

This post had me in tears. The sniper was a MONSTER. It is much more emotional when it is your family that is in danger, not just another news story. Those were my nieces. In this instance, the punishment seems swift. No 20 years on death row, unlike so many others. That's a good thing, too.

Tammy Howard said...

Oh, I remember this so well. I hope the folks most closely effected can find peace.

Caroline said...

This post captures exactly the way I feel about the death penalty.

Noelle said...

i was across the united states when these shootings occurred but i remember them well.

i believe when he is executed, justice will be served. my prayers are with those that lost a mother, sister, daughter, father, brother, son.

mama-face said...

Reading your personal story puts much more of a face on this crime than any report I heard about the actual perpetrators. When it happens so far away from you it's easy to forget. Thank you for sharing what must be difficult to relive. How frightening; especially the fear you and many others had for the children.

I am totally on the fence about the death penalty. I don't know how I would feel if I were directly affected by the criminal. I can see the justice in the fact that they could never do this again. You have given me a lot to think about.

I will be thinking of you today.



I will be thinking of you as well.

mama-face said...

Whoa, I got so lost in thought I wrote two thinking of you comments. Oops. Sorry; it comes across as so insincere. Proofreading is not my speciality.

Caution Flag said...

You said it beautifully. I don't know what's right or not right in this situation either, but thank God this crazy man was stopped -- forever.

love lives in the kitchen said...

what a scary story... fortunately i've never had a similar problems but i can only imagin what one can fell in such a situation...

Helen McGinn said...

Even over here in Scotland, it was reported. It was scary just reading about it, never mind living it. What total relief it must have been.

Thank you for your lovely birthday wishes. xx

Chrissie said...

you forgot about how you went with una the day after muhammed was caught. teacher work days, she got her braces off. went to one of your fave mexican restaurants and then in celebration, you and her zig zagged through the parking lot, hiding behind a near by bulldozer. :)

maybe not the most politically correct way to celebrate, but it was fun:)

Chrissie said...

ps--read the article in the washington post this morning and the quotes from his lawyer. gives you a perspective on the death penalty. even if he were not killed, he would never do it again.

also gives you an interesting perspective the lawyer/client relationship (more important for me!)

overall, it was enlightening.

blueviolet said...

I remember being riveted to the news at the time and terrified for all of you out there. I'm glad the nightmare is over.

kys said...

I remember when the shootings were happening. I can't imagine what it must have been like to live in the midst of it.

Susie said...

I think that capital punishment is for a man like this. Pure evil on the earth that is not repentent.

B said...

How scary. So well written Melissa.

x

Tracy P. said...

Profound and sobering post, Melissa. It epitomizes the dilemma of the death penalty. That was terrorism in its truest sense.

Tara R. said...

I cannot imagine having to live through such terror and uncertainty. Scared every day you or yours might not survive.

El Diablo is right... if ever there was a devil incarnate, these two men were it.

DysFUNctional Mom said...

This is absolutely chilling. I have only a small idea of what that must have been like. When I was a teenager, a serial killer came to my town and murdered 5 college students (his name was Danny Rolling). While he was on the loose, we lived in fear.
I'm glad Muhammed is no longer able to terrorize anyone.

HappyChyck said...

Thank you for sharing your story. It's one thing to hear news reports, but getting a first-hand account on how it really impacted people makes it raw and real.

When did I become my Mom said...

I remember watching this play out on TV. I still don't understand... I want to have compassion for this man, but I just cannot understand... His wife has spoken out about the abuse she suffered at his hands.

http://loudounextra.washingtonpost.com/news/2008/apr/09/snipers-ex-wife-shares-story-abuse/

Miss Jo said...

I shudder when I think about living in D.C. during those endless days when the sniper was loose. Remember how police thought for awhile he was driving a white van ? One morning while at the bus stop @ Massachusetts & Wisconsin I ran home after a white van pulled up across the street and no one got out. I remember all the school outdoor activities being canceled. A bizarre and scary time to say the least, and on top of 9/11 the year before and all the repeated terrorism warnings. Yikes ! I'm feeling stressed out just writing about it.

teachergirl said...

I remember being terrified for my sister and brother and all the friends I left up there. I don't feel one bit sorry for him - he knew exactly what he was doing and was convicted by a jury of his peers.

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