For once, it's the terrorists who were sent a message this week:
You are not safe, anywhere at any time.
A combination of relentless, multi-agency police work and citizen tips led to the arrest of two suspects in the reign of terror of the Washington-area sniper.
A frightened and tired populace was hopeful the arrests had ended the siege that began Oct. 2 and led to the shootings of 13 people, 10 of whom died.
Early reports indicate that those arrested may be sympathetic to the Sept. 11 hijackers, though no link to al-Qaida was apparent.
If true, and the shootings were the work of a sort of free-lance Islamic terrorist, then in retrospect that may make sense. The killings, after all, seemed to be a poor fit with the normal profile of a serial killer. In particular, the victims themselves fit no particular profile. They were of all ages, races and walks of life, engaged in matters of daily routine.
That was bad enough. But making the crimes even more reprehensible, more aggravating was the shooting of a 13-year-old going to school, and the subsequent threat that "Your children are not safe, anywhere at any time." As Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said, that made it personal.
This crime spree was like a spread-out Sept. 11. It was an attack on innocent civilians. It was an attack on the American way of life. It was an assault on freedom. It was calculated to inspire terror. And it was absolutely, totally unprovoked.
And, if early reports are correct, there were at least indirect ties to Islamic terrorism.
Ten people had to die. Three others were made to suffer life-threatening and life-altering wounds. Yet, in the end, the American way of life endured.
We stuck together. Our law enforcement agencies, despite natural frictions, reached out together in an attempt to solve the crimes.
Just as important, citizens got involved, tipping authorities off to various aspects of the case - notably the location of the suspects sleeping in the car being searched for.
When we're under attack, as Americans are today, we've got to stick together.
When we do, the terrorists, to use their own threatening words, "are not safe anywhere, at any time."