Thursday, June 11, 2009

Heros and Horror at the Holocaust Museum


There are heros in the world, and they usually take the shape of people who are just doing their job.

Stephen Tyrone Johns, the security guard at the Holocaust Museum, and the other unnamed guards who drew their weapons and stopped a crazed, paranoid, racist are heros.

A Facebook page in memorial to Stephen Tyrone Johns has been established. Please take a few minutes to read what he meant to those who were closest to him, and what he meant to those who will be forever thankful for his sacrifice and dedication to duty.

Without these heros, we would have had a much different story reported this morning. If Stephen Tyrone Johns and the other officers had not been there, the tragedy would have been compounded. They protected the visitors and staff of the museum, and they stopped the perpetrator in his tracks.

I have been told that there are as many as 2,500 people, on average, at the holocaust museum at any time during its open hours. Yesterday's crowd, like the crowd most days, was made up of a lot of school children touring the facility in groups--hundreds of kids on their eighth-grade trip from Massachusetts, 39 students from Minnesota for their eighth-grade trip, and 41 students and three chaperones from the Marona-Forsyth Middle School in Illinois are just a sample of the groups present, especially this time of year, at the museum.

Also, very close to the shooting, was Former Senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen who was just inside the door of the Holocaust Museum when the shooting took place, NBC News reported.

He was waiting for his wife, Janet Langhart Cohen, who has written and directed a one-act play that was to be performed at the Holocaust Museum Wednesday night. The performance is now being rescheduled for Thursday evening.
Also present were two women and their daughters from Adams County, PA. The women quickly hid their children, fearing they would be trampled by the escaping crowds.

Hundreds were waiting outside an auditorium to hear the first-hand account of a Holocaust survivor, and they were rushed into the room where they stayed for several hours, ironically, listening to the lecture while fearing for their lives.

These were all regular people doing regular things who became extraordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Each of the people who walked out of that museum yesterday afternoon owed their lives to the heroism of the security professionals at that building.

To the family of Steven Tyrone Johns, we mourn with you as he mourned with us. We embrace you. Nothing can replace this man. Every life is beautiful and precious. We know this. May G-d grant you peace.

Holocaust Museum guard killed in shooting, gunman wounded
By David Jackson and Steve Marshall, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — A guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum died after being shot Wednesday in the crowded attraction and a gunman was seriously wounded in return fire, authorities said. The incident left panic-stricken visitors dashing for exits, witnesses said.

"Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns died heroically in the line of duty today," a late-afternoon museum statement said. "There are no words to express our grief and shock over these events.

"He served on the museum's security staff for six years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Officer Johns' family."

The museum will remain closed Thursday and flags flown at half-staff in honor of Johns, 39, of Temple Hills, Md., the statement said.

President Obama said he was "shocked and saddened ... this outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms."

Museum director Sara Bloomfield remembered Johns as "an outstanding colleague, a great friend who greeted us every day with a wonderful smile."

U.S. Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser said that about 12:50 p.m., a man, "armed with a long gun," entered the museum and fired at a security guard. Two other officers returned fire and wounded the gunman, according to museum spokesman Andy Hollinger.

"There were no threats" against the museum, said D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier. "The second he stepped into the building he began firing." Lanier said he was shooting a rifle. (more)

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