EDITORIAL: Keep calm, but remain vigilant

(Photo/Erich Wagner) 

As Alexandrians go out in public, we are understandably peeking out of the corners of our eyes for the gray-haired, balding man with a beard linked to last week’s shooting of music teacher Ruthanne Lodato.

The murder of Lodato has our city on edge because the circumstances resonate deep within all of us. She was killed in her home in the middle of the day when all she did was answer a knock at the door.

Our homes are supposed to be our refuge from the increasingly dangerous world we live in. If we’re not safe there, we’re truly not safe anywhere.

The randomness of Lodato’s killing also is terrifying. She was a quintessential Alexandrian — by all accounts accomplished, intelligent and caring. If an apparent stranger can murder her, in as far as we know a random attack, then we all are potential victims. We can’t help but think: “That could have been me — or my child.”

That her killing comes just a few months after the disturbing — and unsolved — slaying of transit guru Ronald Kirby makes it even more chilling.

The helicopters that Alexandrians heard on and off for a few days last week have been frequent reminders that the killer remains on the loose. Roadblocks and area searches near Lodato’s home confirm that no one has yet been arrested.

And those who knew her mourn, while those who only now know of the music teacher are sad and frightened.

The general sense of unease, bordering on panic for more than a few people, brings to mind the sniper shootings 11-and-a-half years ago. But as scary as the situation is, Alexandrians need to exhale.

There is every reason to believe that whoever killed Lodato will be caught. Our local police force, working with the FBI, is in overdrive, following up on tips and clues. We need to remember that the chance of any individual being a victim of a random crime is very slim.

Still, a measured sense of caution is warranted. We should lock our doors and turn on our alarms if we have them.

Law enforcement officials also have asked us to remain vigilant. See something suspicious or off-putting? Don’t ask yourself if you should contact the police — do it.

Don’t take our word for it: As department officials wrote in a tweet earlier this week, “Apprehensive about something in your neighborhood? Alexandria police would rather be called and not needed, than needed and not called.”

And unfortunately, for the time being at least, it’s probably better to not open our doors to the proverbial stranger in need. Our thoughts remain with the victims and their families, as well as anyone who falls victim to crime. We truly hope this most-recent crisis comes to a quick end.

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