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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Maryland's nervous parents
police search
Police search for clues following another shooting

At first glance, it appeared like a normal end to a school day.

Minivans and sport utility vehicles queued along the quiet streets as parents arrived to pick up their children from a school in the Maryland suburbs of the US capital.

But the police car parked near the school entrance and the furtive glances of the parents quickly dispelled any sense of normality.

Parents are afraid for their children and themselves after a series of shootings has shattered the peace of these normally sleepy suburbs.

Security measures

Catherine sat in her car reading a newspaper, waiting to pick up her seven-year-old and nine-year-old children. She jumped, startled when approached for an interview.
Parents waiting with their cars to pick up children
Parents were talking about the shooting as they picked up their children

She is concerned about her children and worries about them when they are at school. "I wonder what they are doing, what will happen."

The school was on a heightened state of security today and was on lock-down. The children were not allowed outside.

And she herself is frightened. "Myself, I dare not go outside," she said. Unless it is necessary, she is avoiding leaving her home except for necessary trips to buy food and other staples.

When she goes to the grocery store, she tried to park as close as possible to the store entrance. "It's kind of a security measure for me."

Nightmares

Even before a child was shot outside a school in Maryland, Patricia Choquet's daughter was waking up every night crying.

At school, her daughter was told that someone was driving around shooting people, and Patricia struggles with how much detail to tell her about the shooting.

"But it was enough to frighten her," Mrs Choquet adds.

Patricia won't let her daughter play outside, and a friend's birthday party last weekend was moved from a miniature golf course to home as a precaution.

The shootings are too close for Patricia.

A map of Maryland
She can walk to the grocery store where one of the shootings took place. She buys petrol at the service station which was the site of another shooting.

And she has noticed the fear in her community. "It seems like there aren't as many people on the streets. I went to the grocery store; people are rushing to their cars."

She can't believe that the shootings are happening in the sleepy, affluent and normally safe Maryland suburbs of Washington DC.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan summed up the shock this way.

"How do you deal with one day when you get 25% of the murders you normally get in one year?

"The fear has ratcheted up quite a bit," he added as more shootings took place Monday.

Fighting fear

Jean-Bernard Cadier's 10-year-old is pressing him for more and more information, but Jean-Bernard tries to calm him with statistics.

But life has not been totally disrupted. The shootings were the not the main topic of discussion last weekend.

Instead, everyone was talking about the weather on a postcard perfect early autumn weekend.

And Mr Cadier will not allow his life to be disrupted.

"I think that the guy or guys that are doing this are trying to terrorise me and my family," as the attackers on 11 September tried to do, he said.

"They failed," he said, adding, with the recent shootings,

"The best thing we can do against these guys is not to show any fear."


Key Stories

Background

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
Launch MAP OF THE SHOOTINGS
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Trail of terror
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See also:

04 Oct 02 | Americas
19 Aug 98 | In Depth
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