As the sniper shootings in the Washington D.C. area persisted this month,public interest in the attacks spread outside of just the affected region,including into Alabama.
Although none of the identified victims of the 13 shootings over the last three weeks were from Alabama,several current residents of the Washington area are natives of the state.
“When I woke up (Tuesday) morning and I heard about the latest shooting,I just thought,‘I can't believe this is still happening,'” said Shannon Campagna,34,of Old Town Alexandria,Va.,and originally from Fort Payne.
Campagna,a lobbyist and mother of two young children,said she has been particularly frightened since the 12th shooting,an attack in a shopping center parking lot near Falls Church,Va.,that killed a 47-year-old woman. Falls Church and Old Town Alexandria are located about 10 miles apart in Fairfax County.
“That one hit pretty close to home,” she said.
Campagna said she has had to adjust from her normal lifestyle as a result of the sniper attacks.
She said that she,like many people in the area,now feels uneasy when pumping gas in her car.
Although the sniper has no clear pattern as to whom,when or where he attacks,four of the attacks have taken place at gas stations that are near main highways
“I had a five-minute conversation with a friend the other night just about where to get gas,” Campagna said. “Instead of going to a nice,well-lit place right off the highway,you have to go a scary,dark,dreary place to get gas.”
Campagna said her 3-year-old daughter has been unable to have recess at preschool for two weeks because of the restrictions placed on outside activities in most area school districts. She also doubts whether she will take her children trick-or-treating on Halloween.
And for Campagna,worries about her safety have stretched back home to her family in Alabama.
“My mother,who lives in Fort Payne,calls me like every hour. She watches CNN 24 hours a day,” she said.
Campagna pointed out that of the shootings that have been linked to the sniper only one has actually taken place within the District of Columbia,a city traditionally associated with a having one of the nation's highest homicide rates.
“It's a funny thing that really it's safer to go walking down the streets of downtown D.C. than in the suburbs,” she said.
Andrew Wheeler-Berliner,25,is a Birmingham native who has been interning in Washington on Capitol Hill since late August.
He,like Campagna,said he feels safer living in Washington than he would in the suburban areas that have been affected.
“Where I'm living in Washington,D.C.,feels like a much safer place than where I lived even in Birmingham,” Wheeler-Berliner said. “The area I'm living in is just a few blocks from the Capitol and there's Capitol police driving by like every five minutes.”
Still,he said the tension around the city is obvious and that he is not immune to feeling it,too.
“When I went to Virginia last week to go shopping I felt a little tense,and you could definitely tell everybody had that sense. I found myself looking up at rooftops,” he said.
Courtney Rogers,a native of Prattville and a 1989 graduate of the University of Alabama,lives very close to the site of Saturday's non-fatal attack on a 37-year-old man outside a steakhouse in Ashland,Va.
A municipal investment banker,Rogers lives in Richmond,Va.,which he said is about a 15-minute drive to the scene of the shooting.
He said he and his family were in Ashland Saturday morning before the shooting to pick pumpkins. That night after he returned home,he learned about the local attack and the massive police dragnet that had been set up around his city.
“I'm sitting there watching football Saturday night and my wife says to change the channel because there had been another shooting,and I was like,‘Whoa,this is crazy,'” Roberts said.
Roberts,a former president of the UA's Richmond alumni chapter,said he had a feeling before Saturday that the sniper might attack further south in order to throw off police. Richmond is about 100 miles south of Washington.
As a result of the attacks,he said he and his wife have become more cautious about the safety of their 20-month-old son,Grayson.
“The other day my wife asked me,‘Will you go to the grocery store for me because I don't want to take Grayson out in the parking lot?'” Roberts said.
Roberts was at a loss for words to describe to how much fear of the sniper has gripped the region and affected how people feel about their safety.
“It's just a strange thing,” he said. “It's hard to explain. It's just a strange thing.”