In October 2002, the crack of a sniper's rifle outside a Wheaton supermarket began a three-week rampage that eventually took 10 lives, wounded three other victims and draped a cloak of panic and fear over the Washington metropolitan area.
Tomorrow, the county will mark the second anniversary of the sniper shootings by dedicating a memorial at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Regional Park that is designed to be a "contemplative place for healing and remembrance."
The 1 p.m. ceremony will officially unveil the Reflection Terrace, located pondside in the Gude Garden of the 50-acre public display gardens owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), county Planning Board Chairman Derick Berlage and family members of the 10 sniper victims -- six of whom were Montgomery residents -- are expected to attend the short ceremony, said county spokeswoman Sue Tucker.
The idea for the memorial blossomed during last year's candlelight vigil in Rockville marking the first anniversary of the shootings, Tucker said.
At the time, Duncan expressed a desire for "a permanent, lasting memorial, not only to the victims of the sniper shootings, but victims of crime in general," Tucker said.
County officials chose Brookside Gardens as the site for such a memorial because of its proximity to the sniper shootings that began on the night of Oct. 2, 2002, when James D. Martin, 55, of Silver Spring was shot in the parking lot of a Shoppers Food Warehouse on Randolph Road. The next day, four more people were shot in Montgomery County and one in Washington. "We were right in the middle of what was going on," said Brookside Gardens Director David Vismara.
The Reflection Terrace, which cost $50,000, makes use of an existing stone formation overlooking the pond and includes two large stones engraved with the names of the 10 victims and an inscription stating the memorial's purpose.
County officials had quickly determined that the site, with its views of the pond, grassy hills and trees, was ideal for the memorial and that construction would have minimal impact on the gardens.
"When the site was selected, it was so perfect. Very little had to be done to turn it into" the memorial, Tucker said.
The large, flat-faced stones sit on opposite sides of the terrace and face the pond. On one, the inscription says the snipers caused 13 deaths.
"During the summer and fall in 2002, the senseless violence of two men caused the death of 13 innocent people," the inscription reads. "Although the tragedies occurred in several parts of the country, sniper fire in the Washington, D.C., area abruptly ended the lives of 10 men and women."
The inscription also reminds visitors to bear witness that the local victims "lived and worked among us -- and they are not forgotten. Their lives, each unique but all too short, are forever part of our collective story."
In addition to the 10 Washington area shootings, convicted snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo are charged with killings in Louisiana and Alabama. Ballistics evidence and admissions by Malvo also tied them to a 13th killing in Tacoma, Wash., but they have not been charged in that case.
The engraving on the second monolith begins with "We remember" and lists the names of the victims in chronological order of their deaths: Martin; James L. "Sonny" Buchanan, 39, of Rockville; Premkumar A. Walekar, 54, of Olney; Sarah Ramos, 34, of Silver Spring; Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, 25, of Silver Spring; Pascal Charlot, 72, of Washington; Dean H. Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg; Linda Franklin, 47, of Arlington; Kenneth H. Bridges, 53, of Philadelphia; and Conrad E. Johnson, 35, of Oxon Hill.
A third stone that also serves as a bench is engraved with the encouragement: "Linger here and reflect on those lost to violence. Hope for a more peaceful world; seek a reverence for life among all people."
An eight-foot-wide walkway of paving blocks leading to the terrace replaced a stone path that was bumpy and difficult to walk on. Brookside's staff plans to plant fragrant flowers, plants and trees around the memorial site, Vismara said.
The nonprofit Montgomery Parks Foundation spearheaded the memorial project and is collecting donations to pay the tab. Landscape architect Sunny Scully of Vienna designed the memorial without charge, and the county paid for the stone engraving by R.S. Kinnaird Memorials of Thurmont.
The engravings, which were sandblasted into the stone over two days, were spray-painted black to make it easier to read the letters, said John Kinnaird, owner of R.S. Kinnaird Memorials. "As the years go by and dirt starts to settle in, it will read naturally," he said.
JAMES L. "SONNY"