Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Under Siege in a Strange Land

In ordinary times, a trip to the gas station was not remarkable, but now, I looked carefully around me for parked cars with passengers, potential enemies, lying in wait. Was it my imagination, or were the streets quieter than usual? I couldn't put off getting gas any longer or I would run dry. No one was at the pumps, so I took advantage of the empty space and strategically pulled around to the back side of a pump so that the pump would be between me and a possible sniper. I only filled the tank half full and I retrieved my credit card quickly. I was successful, no shots fired. I speed off toward the daycare to retrieve my 4 year old.

They had just instituted a new system at our daycare. Parents would no longer park their cars and walk in to retrieve their children. Now, we waited in a line of cars. When our car reached the door a teacher would identify us and send our child out. Only one child would be allowed to leave. If someone was going to shoot children at school, as the Sniper had already done, it would be only one child at a time.

During the years that we lived in the DC there was an average of about 250 murders a year in that city. But this was something different.  Looking at a map of where the shootings happened, they were all around us, North, South, East and West of our home.  There seemed to be no pattern, no motive, just someone with a gun lying in wait at a gas station, a bus stop, a Home Depot, a school… For the first time in my life, I could imagine what a city under siege might be like.

When it was all over, my neighbor said that he had seen him. He had come face to face with John Allen Muhammad. After murdering, he showered at our YMCA, our Y, where we took our children!

People always ask me if I am afraid to travel by myself. The answer is no. For the most part I have always felt safer while traveling abroad than I do in the United States. There are certainly countries that I do not choose to travel to, but keep in mind that the average murder rate in the United States is 5.4 murders per 100,000 people, as compared to 1.84 murders per 100,000 people in Nepal where I travel most often. The United States is indeed a strange land having 90 guns for every 100 citizens. This makes the USA the most heavily armed society in the world. -Information gathered from Wikipedia.


  1. Great story - and scary. & I'm with you about traveling in the U.S. versus abroad.

  2. I've talked to people who live in Israel who think it is much more dangerous to live in the US than there, even during the height of the bombings. Not only are we the most heavily armed population in the world, we have the highest prison population by percentage.

  3. I've heard the same thing, Ellen.

    Butternut, what a frightening post - yikes. The graphic really sets the tone.

    I thank God every day that I have lived such a protected life. Glad, too, that you are surrounded and protected by angels even as you travel so far and so often.

  4. I'm familiar with the statistics. And then Americans ask me how safe I was in Palestine, Ghana, Armenia ... Very safe!

  5. Thanks for visiting and following my two-day-old team blog at Fridge Soup. You are very kind.

    The story you are telling here is a very frightening one, every time we hear of shootings in the US, the debate about the sense in having guns so freely available is re-ignited here in the UK.

    Come and have a look my blog at too.

  6. Your story sounds like it should happen some place where there is war raging. But, surprize, it is the heart of the United States on an ordinary day. But not ordinary when an insane person chooses to do evil. That was a dark time. So glad Mr. John Allen Muhammad was caught.

  7. That is horrible. I cannot imagine how horrific all of that must have been. The older I get the more fear the boogie man around unfamiliar corners. I doubt I'd have the courage to travel as you do no matter what the statistics are. Still, I do know that I am often in much more danger right here than I'd be traveling.
    I had no idea about those statistics.

  8. An important post.
    When I was growing up, I used to be terrified of the idea of living in America because of all the guns. I have been here now for 30+ years and have only seen a drawn gun once (in LA in 1977).
    America is a very violent and heavily armed society compared to the rest of the world but somehow I manage to live without fear. But then I am a priviliged person.
    ps is your son still posting animal pictures?

  9. Good discussion everyone.

    Elizabeth, I have never seen a drawn gun in the US except when a friend took me on a hunting trip. We didn't actually hunt. Her father gave me a rifle and taught me how to shoot at a target when I was 12. It knocked me on my tush and that was the last time I shot a gun. However, I have seen piles of guns and other weapons in people's homes.

  10. It must have been terrifying to live in DC during that time. I agree the US has become one of the most dangerous countries to travel in the world. Sadly, there seems to be no end in sight when it comes to gun control. My daughter wants to travel this summer, going to festivals and visiting family and I hate the thought. Sad commentary on a once great country.

  11. The funny thing about fate, is that you can come face to face with a killer and walk away..other times you're in the cross hairs no matter how many times you duck!

  12. my daughter and i lived in dc during that time, too - actually, in alexancria right off duke street - we were at the same depot the night before the shooting there - and i shopped at a nearby fabric shop - i do remember being fearful for my daughter - and for us both when together - just because it could have come from anywhere - and did -