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Life in the Sniper's Shadow Posted:10.15.02
A Washington, D.C. high school senior reflects on the recent sniper shootings and life in lockdown.
By Anna, senior at National Cathedral School
Ask the girls in my Cleveland Park high school what they think of the recent sniper shootings in our area, and one will hear a number of responses. Some girls are frightened; some are frustrated; and some are flippant. Some want revenge and some crack jokes about being "popped off" on their way home from school. Whatever their opinion, all the girls have something to say.
They have a theory about the killer, or a tirade about the degeneration of our society, or a few terse, scripted few lines about why they aren't afraid and just don't care anymore. The case has pinched a deep nerve in each and every girl, myself included.
It is what the shootings represent, not what they are, that has affected my classmates and me most deeply. Nine people are dead in an area of millions, which means the sheer probability of being the sniper's next victim is very low.
However, the shootings are a confirmation and a manifestation of our post-Sept. 11 fear that we are never truly safe, not even in our everyday routines. They renew that sudden and raw realization we teenagers first made just over a year ago: we, as young people and as Americans, are not impervious to evil, to random cruelty.
When one classmate of mine recently remarked that she was frightened of walking outside for fear of being shot, another girl looked at her in disbelief and said, "I just don't see how anyone who'd been through September 11 could be scared now." Perhaps living through Sept. 11 is precisely what makes her afraid.
Thursday, Oct. 3, the second day of the sniper's attack and the day of his five-murder spree, marked the first time our school had gone into lockdown - wherein no students could go outside - since 9/11.
The school remained in lockdown for a week, and the increased security recalled to mind the emotions we had all felt a year ago. Though the scope of the sniper's crimes did not, and does not, nearly rival that of last year's terrorist attacks, the shootings have given us a fresh dose of the same shock and the bottomless fear we felt on that day.
The sniper has unnerved us all. Who among us in the DC area has not flinched when a white van has passed on the street in the past week?
At my school, even those students who react to the crimes with nonchalance and flippancy - those who joke about being "picked off the sidewalk" - laugh at their own jokes with the sort of quick and uncomfortable laughter that indicates deep-seated fear.
I do not think, though, that these students fear what one might expect: death at the hands of the sniper. Very few students fear the sniper himself.
Rather, most fear what he represents. Those who flinch on the sidewalk flinch as their sense of safety erodes, and those who joke try to laugh away their realization that they have, in a way, lost their innocence since Sept. 11.
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