It was one year ago today when Anna Lewis' husband was fatally shot as a masked man ran wild with an automatic weapon in the IBM building in Bethesda. Lewis is still looking for ways to free herself from the memories.
A few weeks ago, she woke up once again thinking of that day, and decided to visit the spot where her husband was killed. She drove to IBM and went inside the sleek, modern building she had never entered before. She touched the security desk where her husband sat as a guard when a car came smashing through the lobby doors. She looked at the remnants of a bullet hole that mars its front--one of hundreds made that day when the masked gunman pivoted in a semicircle and methodically blasted away.
"I was trying to get the way he died off my mind, and I thought maybe, maybe, if I looked at where it happened. . . . " Lewis said. "I was trying to erase something."
Lewis, like others caught up in the improbable events that day, may never erase them completely from her mind. For some of those wounded in the barrage of gunfire as the gunman moved down the first-floor corridor and then climbed the stairs, and for some who believe they were miraculously spared, May 28, 1982, was a day that altered lives in profound and subtle ways.
Edward Carne, 47, says he values life more, reflecting on it every time he looks at the IBM exit sign he keeps on his bookcase at home. The sign, which was next to him as the bullets sprayed around him, has a hole from a 9 millimeter bullet that Carne thinks was meant for him.
"I was blessed with a lot of luck that day. Were he a better shot or a luckier shot, I would not be here."
William Paine Jr., 33, who escaped the bullets and ran to help Jessie Lewis, the wounded security guard, said he had always wanted to get some emergency medical training but never found the time. Since the shootings he has "gone and gotten Red Cross and CPR training."
Ward Winne, 37, who was wounded in the stomach while trying to get away, says he used to think mostly in terms of work and his career. But since he was shot, he believes that his family is a lot closer, that "we do more together and I seem to enjoy life a bit better."
These men have come to terms with what happened during the 7 1/2 hours the gunman was holed up in an office, falsely telling police he was holding hostages. But others are still struggling with vestiges of that day of violence.
Phuong Dang, the widow of computer programmer Hung Phi Nguyen, battles the memories every morning. After her husband's death, she took a job as a computer programmer in the same building on Fernwood Road where he died.
Nguyen, a former South Vietnamese Army officer, had lagged behind for a few fatal seconds when the gunman came through the lobby. As Nguyen called to his coworkers to take cover, a bullet struck and killed him.
"I can transfer to another place, but since we did not do something wrong, we do not have to run away," Dang said in a soft, timid voice last week. "We have to learn to face it."
Tomorrow, Dang, her three children and family members who have come from all over the country will gather at a memorial mass for Nguyen. "It is a Vietnamese tradition," Dang said. "It is a time of pain, but also a chance to remember."
The third widow, Boots Thompson, still cannot bring herself to talk about the incident in which her husband Larry was killed. "It's like burying a part of yourself, only no one knows that or sees that," Thompson said.
As for IBM, the company moved with calculated speed to obliterate all traces of the wild spree. When workers came back after the Memorial Day weekend last year, it was as if nothing had happened. Police were long gone, and so were the spent shells and shattered glass. The walls were painted. The floors were carpeted. The paintings in the lobby hung where they always had. One of the men who prosecuted the suspect, Thomas Edward Mann, observed of such efficiency: "IBM can be a little scary at times."
The only visible change on the manicured grounds outside are two thick, brown metal posts planted on the ramp over which Mann drove his Lincoln Continental up to the lobby.
Employes say the company "was terrific," offering counseling to those who sought it and help to the bereaved. But it is not something IBM will talk about. "We continue to feel deep sorrow for the victims of Edward Mann's senseless act--our employes and their families," a corporate spokesman said. Anything else is "a private matter."
Mann, known as a friendly, gentle "Good Joe" in his Prince George's County neighborhood, peacefully surrendered to police that day after talking to his wife through a closed door and emptying his weapon in a picture on the wall.
Mann turned 39 on May 12 at the Clifton T. Perkins State Hospital, where he was ordered by a judge who ruled he was mentally incompetent to stand trial.
In a pitched courtroom battle in February over Mann's mental state, a steady stream of psychiatrists testified that Mann was suffering from a severe mental disorder. It resulted in a feeling that IBM, Mann's former employer, was conspiring to destroy his life, they said. But the doctors differed on whether this made Mann mentally incompetent to stand trial. After hearing the testimony, Circuit Court Judge William C. Miller found Mann incompetent to stand trial, asserting it was the only decision he could make "with any intellectual honesty."
Throughout the hearings, Mann sided with his accusers--the prosecutors who want to try him on three murder and 23 assault charges. Mann told the judge he wants to be executed. Recently, from his room at Perkins, Mann wrote to prosecutor Michael Mason, asking for a meeting, which Mann's defense attorneys oppose.
For at least 10 years, Mann will remain in court custody, and prosecutor Roger Galvin said he is ready and waiting to try Mann as soon as he is ruled mentally fit. Meanwhile, thousands of pages of interviews with witnesses and lists of 800 pieces of evidence remain shoved away in cardboard boxes at the Montgomery County courthouse.
No one at IBM knew of anything special planned for the anniversary today. "At two minutes to 11, I'll look up at the clock and remember," Winne said. "Other than that, things go on."