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Spotsylvania minister looks back on the terror of the 2002 sniper shootings and the healing that came from reaching out to a victim's family
Deborah Hertle says she often thinks
REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By PAMELA GOULD
Deborah Hertle keeps a photo of two of sniper victim Kenneth Bridges' children on a wall in her office at Grace Church of Fredericksburg.
"That's the reminder to me to pray for their family," said Hertle, who was one of four area ministers who traveled to Philadelphia in early 2003 to meet with Bridges' widow and her six children.
Bridges, a 53-year-old businessman from Philadelphia, was killed while pumping gas at the Four-Mile Fork Exxon in Spotsylvania County 10 years ago this month.
As Hertle looks back, her mind quickly goes to the terror of those three weeks in October when a pair of snipers traveled from Montgomery County, Md., to Ashland on a murderous spree.
She's reminded of her granddaughters, who were then just 5 and 6 years old, experiencing lockdowns at their Spotsylvania school instituted to keep children safe.
"That was such a horrible thing for me. Just talking about it again makes me want to cry," Hertle said during a recent interview.
The actions of 41-year-old John Allen Muhammad and his 17-year-old accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, left an indelible mark, not just on the 10 families whose loved ones were killed and the three people who were wounded.
No one felt safe because of the randomness of the shootings. People of all ages, genders and races were shot at different times of the day, on different days of the week and as they went about doing normal everyday activities such as mowing grass, vacuuming a car, loading packages in a shopping-center parking lot and arriving for school.
Fears peaked when snipers left a handwritten message near a shooting in Ashland: "Your children are not safe anywhere at any time."
On Oct. 14, 2002, the sniper shootings struck close to home again for Deborah Hertle when Linda Franklin was killed outside a Home Depot store in Fairfax County.
Franklin, a 47-year-old FBI analyst, had sat in the cubicle next to Hertle's husband, Dave, at FBI headquarters.
"My husband thought Linda was such a special lady. She really stood out," Deborah Hertle said.
Hertle also shared about her own close call--something she had never before discussed.