Seven Years Later

On Thursday, October 19, 2002 14 members of the Hanover Ruritans met at the local Ponderosa Restaurant for it’s monthly meeting. I was one of those members. We alternated having our meetings at several eateries in the area. The meeting was pretty routine except much of the conversation concerned the eighth victim of the DC sniper, a woman who was loading her car at a Home Depot in Falls Church, Va. , about 80 miles north of where we sat in Ashland, Va. After our meeting (more lunch than meeting) I remember standing in the parking lot discussing the constuction of a new Walmart directly behind the Ponderosa and the impact it would have on the small town.

Two days later, on Saturday the 21st, a traveler from Florida was shot in that same parking lot while leaving the Restaurant with his wife. I cannot describe the eerie feeling I had when I saw my town of Ashland on the national news and the commentator describing the shooting where I had just been two days before.

For those of us that lived and worked from Washington DC to Richmond along Interstate 95 those 3 weeks in October 2002 changed our daily routines. My wife would not travel on Int. 95 and no way would most women pump their own gas. I remember taking my wife’s car to get gas and at the station a young woman was crouched down pumping gas into her car with the rear door open to provide interference. She calmly pointed to some nearby woods and said the sniper could be there so she had picked a pump as far from the woods as possible. And no way would I have purchased gas at a station on Int. 95. My daughter became a hermit in her own apartment. On one trip to a local station my gas was pumped by a beret wearing Guardian Angel from NY City. I thanked her but it was a very surreal experience. I had neighbors who purchased numerous 5 gallon gas cans and bought their gas away from the area and would add the gas at home as needed.

Authorities had released info about a white van and of course there are thousands of them everywhere. People would change lanes to avoid stopping next to a white van. Most businesses along Int. 95 closed the blinds or curtains to their windows. At every exit between Ashland and DC was a parked policeman-a distance of about 80 miles. Tourism in DC fell by 60%. Halloween was being cancelled by most local governments and parents by the thousands took their kids to school–they would be targets at a bus stop.

In the end, ten innocent people were shot and killed for no reason. Three others were severely wounded. I know this seems so long ago and removed from memory but for those of us that exprienced the fear and unknown it will always be very real. To see, hear, or read the news is one thing, but to be the news is another.

Tonight when Virginia carries out the court’s judgement against John Allen Muhammad, most of us affected directly will feel that justice is being served. And time may show similarities between those three weeks in 2002 and the brief moments last week in Fort Hood.


  1. BrkfldVoter says:

    A very sobering reminder.

    I googled the name of John Allen Muhammad to refresh my memory as I have not noticed him our local news recently. The google search resulted in several chilling accounts, possibly the most complete said to be the testimony of his accomplice Malvo on the oft-questioned wikipedia. Reading wikipedia , it appears his motivation was Allah, Akbar, Jihad. Unfortunately some may cry racist or xenophobic for empathizing with the victims and noticing a similarity between the gunmen.

    Other google results show he was a Gulf War veteran, causing me to wonder about infiltration of our armed forces: Who is evaluating individuals for service?

  2. It is hard to say what motivates crazy people, evil people. Most of us manage to nurse our grudges without hurting anyone.

    The Fort Hood incident reminds me more of our local Sheratan murders than of the DC sniper killings. Here and in Fort Hood the violence was committed by a deeply conflicted, alienated man who wanted to identify completely with something larger than himself, but also wanted that larger entity to completely honor and fulfill him. In the end, each man choose himself over the larger group and doled out punishment on the group. The Major might just as easily have shot up his own religious institution or a women’s center–or the post office, had that been his place of employment.

    JA Muhammed is a different sort, just a cold-blooded serial killer who enjoyed toying with the rest of us.

  3. Santa's Elf says:

    According to a report out today, Muhammed’s killing spree was an attempt to conceal the eventual murder of his wife Lucille (?). His real purpose being to obtain custody of his child. The report concluded with the suggestion that his final victim would be his partner, Lee Malvo.

  4. Randy in Richmond says:

    Muhammad did not take up Islam until 1997, after he left the military. There was probably nothing to indict him while he was active military. He also changed his name in 1997.

  5. Randy in Richmond says:

    Kathryn, I revel in the fact that you attempt to trivialize some of my Posts such as this one, which shows you are 100% in denial of the real world. I’m certainly glad that Muhammad was”just a cold blooded serial killer” as opposed to those who “want to dole out punishment to the group”. I suspect you should contact the hundreds of family members and others affected by Muhammad’s murders and share this with them so as to console them these years later.

    And your non-use of the names Muhammad and Nidal Hasan (DC sniper and Major) is not lost on me and others who read your posts. Neither is the fact that you choose another killer to make a comparison to. Let me guess as I am not familiar with the Sheratan killings you refer to–the killer is a non-Muslim white man.

  6. That’s Sheraton, as in a Brookfield Hotel. Randy you are right, he was a non-Muslim white male. The hotel was used a temporary meeting place for a church.

    I’m certain that the stress you portrayed so well in your post will be a lasting memory for you and the affected communities.

  7. Santa's Elf says:

    Well Kate, had Hasan gone bonkers during the Friday prayer hour and executed half the mosque, perhaps is would be easier for the rest of us to see him as just another whacko committing senseless murder.

    But after having gone out of his way to openly criticize the muslim killing of other muslims, together with his open opposition to the war, one can only conclude that his choice as victims of fellow American soldiers preparing to enter the Afghan combat zone marked his vote for the Taliban.

  8. Oh, Elf, sometimes you are remarkably lucid. I could’t put words to it, but once I read it, I knew that’s exactly how I feel.

  9. No doubt, Elf.

  10. Randy, I read your post and thought it was interesting, engaging, and thought-provoking.

    I can see where Kathryn makes the association that she does. And I understand how you don’t. In the end, comparing two crimes is always a crap shoot. Most crimes of this proportion have their own brand of wacko.

    I get the feeling that you’re trying to make a point about how dangerous Muslims are.

    I’m reminded of the Holocaust Memorial shooting, Ohio Highway Sniper, the murder of Dr. Tiller, and the recent string of Church shootings.

    People under intense pressure often go ballistic.

  11. Right. And that’s exactly why they yell “Allah Akhbar” as the pull a trigger or admit to the killings as part of a jihad.

    I’m going to say this while doing my best to not offend too terribly, but how ridiculous does one’s world view have to be to dismiss these murderers so easily?

  12. Hasan is just as guilty as a white supremacist who busted into the Holocaust Memorial and gunned down a black man. Just as guilty as those who kill the 45+ homicide victims per day in the United States. And frankly, just as guilty as the Israeli military, funded by you-know-who, that uses White Phosphorous on civilian targets.

    Murder is murder is murder, Cindy.

    Hey, I get it. It’s unAmerican to draw attention to any wrongdoing by ”the good guys.” I get that.

    But I don’t hate Hasan. And I don’t hate the Holocaust Memorial shooter. I don’t hate my government’s tendency to murder, either.

    I don’t dismiss a murder, wherever it occurs. Humans make grave errors and do horrific things. None is more guilty of being human than the other.

  13. Randy’s post was about THOSE TWO murders which are current news. You danced around it all by throwing in the kitchen sink. You were maneuvering to support your world view.

    Fine. Lots of people do it. But I think it’s wimpy.

  14. I was responding to Randy’s comment about Kathryn’s comment. No dancing.

    Seriously though, enough with the name-calling for today? I made extra effort to be nice. Won’t you?

  15. OK. I’ll try.

  16. How scary for you and your family Randy. We read things in the news – and I think news saturation and other factors causes us to be casual about some news events not realizing the the impacts – until it’s in our own backyard. Glad you and your family were not hurt.

  17. BrkfldVoter says:

    @lorax (comment 12) Murder is murder is murder, Cindy.

    … all murders are not equal in the eyes of the law when our country has special “hate crimes” legislation …

  18. True. But the law treats murder different in several other situations as well. That’s fair and square part of the legal system.