Letter: Terror at Temple Israel -- A first-hand account
Updated 3:00 pm, Thursday, May 14, 2015
Since 1994, the United Nations General Assembly has condemned terrorist acts using the following political description of terrorism: "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them."
As over 100 women and several men sat peaceably at Temple Israel enjoying lunch and ready to listen to the planned discussion, loud clamoring and yelling which turned to pounding and screaming began by the door to the room. We looked over and saw -- through the glass cutout in the door -- a large figure appearing to be wearing head garb trying to enter the room.
Everyone around me panicked. My heart sank lower than I had ever thought possible and my instinct was to get as far away from that door as possible. Thoughts of Sandy Hook, Columbine and Paris flooded my mind as I tried to remember/determine, within seconds, whether I would be killed more readily by hiding in one of the many classrooms within the building or attempting to escape it.
Instinct again wanted me out of that building. But after running through the hallways and down the stairs and opening the exit door to the outside, I saw a vast, rambling shaped parking lot ahead and I felt certain that more terrorists would be waiting outside to harm those attempting to flee. When I saw what looked to be an opening in the fence in the distance, and saw no terrorists in plain sight, I ran for the gate, which did thankfully open and continued to walk until I sat in the bushes at a residential property. By this point I noticed that my heart was tightly constricting, and my breathing was short and painful. I wondered if I was having a heart attack and almost knocked on the door of a random residence to call for an ambulance though it was clear they were not home.
Police sirens sounded loudly for the ensuing two hours. I waited in the bushes in a daze. All of my belongings -- bag, phone, car and car keys were in the room. As other women passed the property I was hiding out in, they offered that I join them at one of their homes where I was able to contact my daughters who I could no longer pick up from school, as the temple was still in lockdown and I could not retrieve my car.
Though it was ultimately determined that these criminals were not armed, and thankfully were apprehended at the door by the temple clergy prior to police restraint, they intended to and did do harm to every person in that building, including small nursery school students and their parents who could not retrieve them throughout a long and scary lockdown.
Intentionally inciting panic and terror results in psychological and bodily harm and I am feeling both very severely today, and for who knows how many more days to come. Many people in our community were affected by this terrifying invasion, not only the people in the building but their loved ones as well, and it is important that such acts are punished severely, for the sake of both justice and deterrence.
Furthermore, it is a wake-up call for heightened security in our places of worship as well as our schools. In the current state of absent and minimal security we are overly vulnerable to further and more violent attacks.