October 19, 2002

A Few Words on Violence

Since the sniper attacks began, there have been 18 “traditional homicides” in the area. They included a congressional intern who was also a poet. A mother found stabbed in her apartment. A young man who called his mother every day to tell her he loved her.

The Washington Post

Add to that list Irina Hans who was an intern at our museum. I read the article that appeared on her homicide in Monday morning’s paper. But, like most murder stories, I glossed over it. Violence and breakfast do not sit well together. It wasn’t until I got to work that I made the connection. We were all devastated.

The loss of someone so full of energy and promise to an act of violence was bad enough. But added to the three weeks of angst, we have been feeling an incredible weight this week.

One of the “water cooler” rationalizations around town has been the fact that one is more likely to be killed in an auto accident than by the sniper. The message is that one must live their lives as normally as possible. And while I agree with that sentiment, I find little solace in this statistic. Most traffic accidents are just that: accidents. The shooter is looking to kill and frighten. There is a difference.

However, there is something valuable about considering how one lives their life. For many around the world, what we in Washington have been experiencing this month is part of their normal state of affairs. In Israel and the West Bank, in parts of the Philippines, and other areas of Asia, just to name a few, people are dodging snipers every day.

One of our good friends is from Ireland. Our children go to school together and on the Monday of the school shooting, we talked as we picked our girls up under police escort. “This is why I left Belfast,” she told me as we walked quickly to our cars. “I didn’t want my children to have to go through this.”

Irina Hans’ parents have made their way from the Ukraine this week to attend her funeral. Their picture of life in America will forever be colored by her violent death. How many more parents will similarly bury their children this week around the world?

Rather than comparing the chances that one might be gunned down by the sniper to being killed in a car accident, I’m trying to compare how I feel dodging bullets with what others have been living with for some time: in Southeast Asia or in Southeast Washington.

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