Carlos Cruz did not feel any jubilation yesterday morning when he learned of the arrests in the deadly sniper shootings. He is too depressed, he said, too crushed by pain.
"It will always be difficult. I will always be grieving," Cruz said. "Nothing takes that away."
Cruz's wife of 10 years, Sarah Ramos, 34, was the fourth victim in the series of shootings that eventually claimed 10 lives and wounded three people. She was killed Oct. 3 at 8:37 a.m. while sitting on a bench in front of a chicken restaurant near Leisure World in Silver Spring. In that instant, the life Cruz and Ramos had built with their 7-year-old son was shattered.
For Cruz and other family members of the victims, the news of yesterday's arrests brought a measure of relief. They are happy if the killings have stopped. They do not want another family to endure what they are going through. For the most part, they are grateful to police for their hard work in apprehending the suspects. But nothing right now can erase the horror of their experience.
"Well, honestly, I'm glad they caught them, but it's not going to bring my father back to life," said Myrtha Cinada, whose father, Pascal Charlot, was the sixth victim. The 72-year-old District man, who cared for his invalid wife, was crossing the street at Georgia Avenue and Kalmia Road NW when he was gunned down at 9:20 p.m. Oct. 3, the same day Ramos and four others died.
"I'm glad they caught them," Cinada repeated, "because this has to stop. People could not live anymore in this situation. It had to end."
The victims did not know one another. They apparently were randomly chosen. James L. "Sonny" Buchanan, 39, of Abingdon, Va., had traveled to Montgomery County to mow a friend's lawn when he was gunned down Oct. 3. Lori Lewis Rivera, 25, who also died Oct. 3, was a Silver Spring mother who had stopped to vacuum her minivan. Kenneth Bridges, 53, a father of six, was trying to get home to Philadelphia on Oct. 11 when he stopped in Virginia for gas and was fatally shot. Linda Franklin, 47, an FBI analyst from Arlington, was loading purchases into her car when she was slain Oct. 14 in a store parking lot.
Like other family members, Bob Meyers said he has tried -- and failed -- to find any sense in the tragedy.
"It has been a challenge," said Meyers, whose brother, Dean Harold Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg was fatally shot Oct. 9. "But a long time ago, we chose to trust God rather than question Him. There was two inches between my brother being hit and not being hit. Who am I to question something like this?"
Meyers said he would like to know more about the suspects' motives, what might have prompted them to allegedly embark on such a rampage. "It would be of interest to know what the basis of these actions would be, but it certainly doesn't change the result," he said.
He said it also was useless to debate how many deaths, if any, might have been prevented had police established contact with the alleged sniper sooner. In communications with police, a caller complained that five additional people had to die because he had failed in his attempts to get through to authorities. Dean Meyers's death was the seventh of the 10 fatalities.
"It appears there has been some great police work in the apprehension, but I understand there were some breaches early on, and some occurred before my brother's death," said Bob Meyers, who lives in Perkiomenville, Pa. "You can do this 'What if this, what if that' scenario, but we aren't going there. We believe nobody's perfect."
The family of a survivor, the 13-year-old boy who was shot Oct. 7 as he entered Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, also was "very clearly relieved" at the arrests, said family attorney Beverly Wilbourn. The family is concentrating on the teenager's recovery, she said.
Another survivor, a 37-year-old man who was shot Saturday night in Ashland, Va., is in critical condition at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals in Richmond, where he underwent his third surgery Wednesday. His wife, who has been at his side since the shooting, made her first public statement yesterday.
"I've always had absolute faith that law enforcement officials would bring their investigation to closure soon," said the woman, who, like her husband, has not been identified because they are witnesses. She said she had received hundreds of cards and letters from across the country.
"I await the outcome" of the investigation "like every American. Let the police do their job and let all of us pray for the best," she said.
James D. Martin, 55, the first victim, who died Oct. 2 as he crossed a Wheaton grocery store parking lot, was a leader at Ashton United Methodist Church, and his pastor said yesterday that Martin's widow and other family members are working on forgiveness -- as difficult as that may be.
"We have been talking about being able to respond to the arrests with a sense of forgiveness in order to heal personally," said pastor Jeff Jones, who said Martin's widow is not speaking publicly about the tragedy. "If we're going to be authentic in our Christian faith, we have to do as Jesus did on the cross when he said, 'Father, forgive them.' Because her faith is genuine, she figured that is the best way."
Lazarus Borge, brother-in-law of Premkumar A. Walekar, a cabdriver who was slain Oct. 3, said the family is able to relax a little from the strain of knowing that the killer was still on the loose. Walekar was killed as he pumped gas at a Mobil station at Connecticut Avenue and Aspen Hill Road in Aspen Hill.
"It was revenge on innocent people," Borge said. "All the time, we were saying it must be an Army person, someone with training in shooting."
Borge said Walekar's widow, Margaret, has returned to her job as a nurse at Montgomery General Hospital. "She said it was better to go back to work," Borge said. "She said the empty rooms in her house made her sad."
Conrad E. Johnson, 35, of Oxon Hill was the 13th victim and the 10th to die. He was shot Tuesday as he stood on the steps of his Ride On bus in Aspen Hill. His funeral is to be held Saturday at Glendale Baptist Church in Landover.