By Tim Harfmann
At Pace University on June 19, religious leaders and law enforcement officials tackled the issue of church attacks head-on, discussing recent attacks and ways of preventing future terror.
“People should understand that everybody has safety as a priority, but to maintain awareness of your surroundings, just as you would if you were walking down any street in any county, any state, any city,” said William Sweeney, the Assistant Director for the F.B.I.’s New York office.
He also said having cameras and alarms isn’t enough. Houses of worship need protocols in place to prevent attacks.
“Do you know what your exit plan is? Do you know the exits look like? Do you know what the inside of the building looks like? Have ushers talk to each other about a plan. Have the ushers talk with the pastors, the monsignors, the priests,” said Sweeney.
For Alan Hausman, acts of terror hit home. He worships at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
It was October 27, 2018, when a gunman opened fire, killing 11 incident people at the synagogue.
“It was almost unbelievable to even think that in our small, little synagogue this could happen,” said Hausman.
The congregation is still in disbelief as mass shootings and bombings continue around the world. For Hausman, the Pittsburgh shooting has taken a toll on him personally.
“When the other attacks we read about occur, it is almost like it takes people right back to that day. I have good days and bad days, good hours and bad hours. To be honest with you, I still don’t sleep well. My mind is still running a million miles an hour,” he said.
But he has faith, and is helping the Tree of Life Synagogue to have a plan in place.
“One of our members that was killed was our greeter usher. So, it is my personal commitment to take his place and be there at the door to greet everybody,” he said.
Sweeney said worshippers shouldn’t be afraid either, but they must be prepared.
“Be aware of your surroundings and have a plan.”