By LaWanda Johnson
Special to the NNPA from the Washington Afro American
A woman increased her pace as she reached the exit of the Costco store in Fredericksburg, Va.
She glanced briefly in the direction of the Michaels craft store a few hundred feet away, the scene of one of the sniper shootings that left a woman wounded.
At a slight jog, she pushed her cart while glancing left and right. Her keys already in hand, she had the device that allowed her to unlock her doors in mid-stride. As she threw open the side door of her blue minivan, she tossed in her groceries, slammed the door quickly and ran around to the drivers side. She stopped just once, peering into the darkness. In a flash, she was in her car, pulling away, heading home safely to her family.
This is what life in the metropolitan area has been transformed into since the first five sniper attacks on Oct. 3 in suburban Montgomery County, Md.
Sixty miles away, on Marlboro Pike in Capital Heights, Md., people walked around and laughed, trying to live their lives. Two men stood outside a liquor store drinking the contents of bottles in their paper bags. Three women crossed the street, heading to a carry-out restaurant that promised Good Home Cookin. An Asian man sat outside a nail salon with his legs crossed, smoking a cigar and reading a newspaper. Three men stood outside the Shoppers Food Warehouse store impatiently waiting for customers to drive home in exchange for a few dollars. These residents have continued their routines, in spite of the unprecedented attacks on area residents which, at press time, had left 11 people shot since Oct. 2; nine have died.
Earline Bellinger, 47, came out of a corner store with a Pepsi, candy and cigarettes. She always finds some reason to go to the store just for the walk or out of habit. The sniper has not changed her routine.
When its your time to go, its your time to go, she said, smiling. Besides, he is not going to come in this area. If he comes over here and shoots, he wont get any publicity.
Bellinger, a Prince Georges resident for several years, said she grew up on the unforgiving streets of southeast Washington.
I watched my sons friends get murdered. Sometimes two a week, said Bellinger. They were never in the newspaper or on the news.
An elderly gentleman, who usually sits with his friends in front of the corner store on Southern Avenue playing Keno, sat alone this day, his friends opting to stay home. He, however, is defiant. Nearly silenced by a debilitating stroke, she shook his head, smiled and garbled out, Shoot no, I aint afraid.
Shirley Smith, 46, walked across the store parking lot to the Metro stop. She catches the bus to work at a daycare facility on Walker Mill Road.
Im scared to death, said Smith. But I dont have a choice. I have to live. When I step out the door, thats the first thing I think about.
Smith said she walks her daughter to the bus stop every morning and remembers how much fun that was last year in spite of the crack house they had to pass each day.
I can fight of a crack head, said Smith. But the sniper? You just dont see him.
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