"You can't depend on anything in the future," says Conroy, who works at Wild Times Safari Party in Timonium. "What will be will be. All you have is what you have this very second. ... I had it all, and it all crumbled right in front of my eyes."
It's the first thing the young widower's eyes fix upon when he wakes: the white marble urn holding the ashes of his wife and the child he never knew, which sits on a dresser near his bed.
"I've got her here with me in the bedroom because I loved her so much," he says.
Thomas N. McDonel lost his pregnant wife, Jennifer, 36, on March 8, when Palczynski shot at them as they were driving along Ebenezer Road to a prayer service. Thomas McDonel escaped unharmed.
"I remember the sounds. I remember hearing Jennifer cry out."
In the year since his wife's death, McDonel has wrapped his daughter, Lydia, 2, in a world of love and adoration. He says he started a carpet-cleaning business out of his home so that he could spend more time with her. His daughter resembles his wife.
"She's beautiful," he says.
The toddler, who wasn't with the couple when they encountered Palczynski, has few memories of her mother. Still, she seems to understand that an important person in her life is missing.
"She says things like, `Mommy bye-bye,' " her father says.
McDonel, 49, says by telephone from his home in Essex that he doesn't hate the man who killed his soul mate. "He's in hell, and my wife is in heaven, and no one can tell me otherwise."
McDonel says he reads the Bible and prays daily. He is a minister at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Chase.
Recently, he filed a $10 million lawsuit against Constance A. Waugh, the Essex woman who bought two guns for Palczynski the day before the rampage began.
McDonel says he's not out for revenge.
"Justice was done," he says. "I have no hard feelings toward him."
McDonel looks to God for solace, and to a new girlfriend whom he met at church and plans to marry.
"That's my hope and prayer," he says.
He says his daughter needs a mother and he needs a friend.
"It's been a difficult year, but we're coping. We're doing the best we can," he says.
The image of her bloodied baby boy, her Gregory, her angel, is what Lisa Sims recalls when a visitor asks how she felt that night when Palczynski charged her car, gun in hand, and opened fire.
"I don't know how I ever survived that day," says Sims, a beautician in training who lives near the water in Essex. "I remember finding Gregory in his car seat. He was so calm. He wasn't even crying."
In another room, Gregory Sims, 3, lolls on his bed with a teddy bear he calls "Bear-Bear." Gregory still sucks on a pacifier, wears diapers and clings to his mother's hip. He's especially shy, even nervous, around male strangers.
"It still haunts him," says his mother. "He knows how he got his boo-boo on his face. He knows about the bad man who came out of the woods."
Gregory and "Bear-Bear" were strapped into a car seat in Sims' 1993 Ford Mustang when a bullet from Palczynski's gun slammed into the seat's plastic headrest as she was driving along Ebenezer Road the night of March 8.
Palczynski was shooting at passing vehicles after a failed carjacking attempt nearby. Although the bullet shattered on impact, a large chunk of metal penetrated Gregory's cheek.
Bits of lead, which appear purple under the flesh, mark the spot. They will never disappear. A faint scar about 3 inches long traces Gregory's jaw line. Doctors had to reset his jawbone. They left a piece of the bullet lodged in baby bone tissue because it was impossible to remove.
In the aftermath, Gregory refused to ride in his mother's car after dark. If he did, he would tell her they'd better hurry home before the "bad man" came out.
Today, the boy is more apt than before to lash out in fits of anger. He talks back to his great-grandfather and punches his mother. Like a soldier home from battle, he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He has nightmares and sees a counselor once a week, his mother says.
"He was never like that before," she says. "He was always an angel. He never hit until the accident."
Lisa Sims, 28, says she, too, has suffered. She had lost a child who was stillborn and couldn't imagine losing another. But even after Gregory was safe at home, she experienced episodes of rage and insomnia.
She has clipped newspaper articles and watched television shows recounting the activities of other victims but is eager to move on, away from the blood and the terror.
"What me and Gregory went through that night, it was horrifying," says Sims, her blue eyes red from crying. "But I don't want to be known by that. It's been an incredible year. Now I just want to be left alone."
Anna M. Etter
Anna M. Etter was reading a newspaper the night of March 8 when Palczynski broke into her house, handcuffed her to a bed and stole her 1987 Dodge Shadow.
Over the past year, "I've had problems, but not because of that old Palczynski," the 82-year-old widow says.