No surrender to terror

October 09, 2002

THE BIBLICAL story of Job comes to mind a lot these days as our faith in the future is repeatedly tested.

We're on the brink of a potentially disastrous war with Iraq. The economy just can't seem to right itself, much less begin the long road to recovery. We're still haunted by the demons of Sept. 11, 2001.

And now some whack job is driving around the Washington suburbs randomly shooting men, women and a 13-year-old boy caught in the most mundane acts of life.

Six people have been killed with a single shot from a high-powered rifle. Two more, including the boy, are wounded.

Someone is murdered in Baltimore almost every day. But those deaths usually have some twisted logic: Killer and victim know each other, a motive is apparent.

Far more terrifying is the notion of miscellaneous strangers at gas stations and parking lots and, in the case of one man, mowing the lawn, gunned down by a hidden sniper firing from a distance. It defies logic. That means anyone could be a target.

No one could blame the people of Bowie, or Kensington, or Washington, or Fredericksburg, Va., if they chose to hide inside their homes with the blinds drawn and the covers pulled over their heads, cursing fate.

But to their great credit, very few seem to have done that. Most residents in the affected communities are refusing to give into fear. They won't allow the sniper or snipers to take control over their lives.

They have chosen instead to fight back.

Many have stepped forward to help police maintain security and order. They're taking kids to school, volunteering as guards, patrolling neighborhoods.

Thousands more have called in with tips that police say include some credible leads. Reward money for help in tracking down the shooter had soared to $237,000 in contributions by yesterday afternoon.

Just as important, these suburbanites on the front lines of what looks like homegrown terror are determined to carry on as much as possible with their normal routines.

Such bravery in defiance of the cowardly attacks gives hope that America's other trials can be overcome as well.

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