July 10, 2009

A Tour Guide's Tribute to Security Guards

The tour season is essentially over for this year -- I have just one more day this weekend and that's it. Notice I said "tour season", not "tourist season". Summer is a very busy time for tourists in Washington, DC, but the organized tours -- schools, seniors, churches, etc. -- are mostly done in the spring, and those are the types of tours I usually lead.

It was a good season for me with lots of terrific groups! There isn't a single one that I wouldn't want to guide again. In fact, several groups have already requested me to be their tour guide next year. I had some adventures, both good and bad, but no major catastrophes...at least, not with my groups.

I was leading a school group on the day of the shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, but I was fortunate because we were somewhere else when it happened. That doesn't make the whole thing any less horrible! I go to that museum every week. It could just as easily have been me and my group inside when the shooting occurred instead of another guide and her/his group. I know several who were there when it happened. I've heard the stories of how they had students hiding under the metal benches in the lobby or pushing groups back into the permanent exhibit to keep them away from the shooter. I can only imagine the terror that they had to deal with that day. Thankfully, all of the visitors were safe and evacuated without harm, but that memory will stay with them forever.

What causes people to hate others so much? I have never been able to understand why you would hate anyone just because of their color or religion or political beliefs. Maybe I'm naive....or maybe it's because my parents raised me to be open-minded enough to accept people for what is inside of them and not to judge them by the way they look or act. I'm certainly not perfect and I'm sure there's no one in the world who can say they are 100% unbiased all of the time. After all, we're human! But I just don't understand people who thrive on hating others. And, of course, the greatest irony of all is that the shooting occurred at the one place in our city that has dedicated itself to teaching and showing people how horrible the world can be when we are taught to hate others!

My thoughts and prayers are still with Officer Stephen Johns' family. I didn't know him personally, but many of my fellow guides knew him well from seeing him week after week. I'm told he was a kind, gentle man. It must be true because his last act on earth was to open the door to the Holocaust Memorial Museum for an 88-year-old man who was having trouble walking....the same man who raised a rifle and shot Officer Johns dead!

As a tour guide, we tend to look at all of the security checkpoints we have to go through here in DC as a pain in the butt. It slows us down, creates havoc when you have 100+ people to get through the magnetometers and x-ray machines. People who visit Washington from other parts of the country aren't used to all of the security checks. Many of them have only had to deal with it when they go to the airport, not when they go into a building to get lunch or enter a museum! I tell the students in my groups on the very first day of a tour that we take security very seriously here and it's just something we have learned to live with.

Since the shooting of Officer Johns, I look at these security checks in a whole different light. These guards who have to tell visitors the same thing a thousand times a day -- "empty your pockets...take out all electronics, such as cell phones, IPods, digital cameras, etc....remove your belts if they have large buckles..." and on and on -- are doing this to protect us! It may seem like they're just hanging around, waiting to give us a hard time when the buzzer goes off as we pass through the checkpoint, but they are there to put their lives on the line, if necessary, to keep us safe!

Since the shooting on June 10, I have made a point of thanking every single security guard I pass and telling them how much I appreciate what they do for us! It's not much, I know, but I can tell by their reactions -- a smile, a quick "thank you", a nod of the head -- that they are grateful that I do it. It's the least I can do for them. The next time you pass a security guard as you enter a building, you might want to say "thank you", too.

If you would like to do more, please visit the memorial page for Officer Johns and make a donation to the fund that has been established for his family. Just follow this link: http://www.ushmm.org/memoriam/detail.php?content=johns

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post! It is amazing how a split second can change the life of so many!