This post is about what I did so that we would survive the attack on Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, Texas, 15 January, 2022.
When if first arrived at the synagogue for Saturday morning prayer, Rabbi Charlie pointed me to a guest. I must have misheard what he said about why the man was there, but that isn't important. I went over, introduced myself. He was on the phone, but briefly stopped his conversation. He said hello, smiled, and after we introduced ourselves, I let him go back to his call. He seemed calm and happy to be in from the frigid 20 degree morning. His eyes weren't darting around; his hands were open and calm, he said hello, he smiled.
I had just sat down after the Amidah when I heard that unmistakable sound of an automatic slide engaging a round. But it was out of place and the building makes many strange sounds. Rabbi Charlie heard it too and looked over at our "guest." Within a moment, he was yelling something (but that wasn't important). I keep my phone next to me during services, and that was important. I quickly dialed 911 and put the phone screen side down on the chair and moved as commanded. But not exactly as commanded. Instead of going to the back of the room, I stayed in line with one of the exits.
When the police officer came to the door in and our attacker became more agitated, I moved closer to the exit door. When he came back and instructed us to sit down, I sat on the row with clear access to that same exit. This door, by the way, is the one you can see us run out of on the WFAA video.
During the day, I remained calm -- I know, those who know me won't believe it -- I never raised my voice or made a quick move. Everything was deliberate.
When he let us call our families, I called my wife, daughter, and son. I also posted here on Facebook. Many of you saw that post, I'm sure. To be perfectly honest, at that point, I figured we had few options and little chance of survival. With my feet, I slowly moved a few chairs in front of me. Anything to slow or divert a bullet or shrapnel.
Later in the day, I helped one of my fellows by moving him closer to the door. While rubbing his shoulders, I whispered about the exit door. Still later, when we received the pizza, I suggested to our third hostage that he bring it back to us. We were all within 20 feet of the exit door. This proved critical for our escape.
Next was to keep the gunman engaged. We talked with him. He lectured us. I asked him questions that MAY have been useful to the FBI. But as long as he was talking and somewhat calm, we bought the FBI time to position.
Then things began to devolve. At one point, our attacker instructed us to get on our knees. I reared up in my chair, stared at him sternly. I think I slowly moved my head and mouthed NO. He stared at me, then moved back to sit down. It was this moment when Rabbi Charlie yelled run. Shane had one step on me. I grabbed him and pushed him through the door (we were so close, that the report said only 2 people came out -- there were three of us).
Going out the door, I stumbled hitting the ground hard. I heard our attacker open the door. I was on the ground without my glasses, my plan became getting through the hedge line. In all honesty, I thought I was further under than I was. In fact, I was quite exposed. The lesson is that just because your head is covered doesn't mean your body isn't completely in the open. When I heard the door close and an officer yell, I got up and ran.