Alan Hausman is part of a club he hopes never grows. As vice president of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha and chief of PA Strike Team 1, an urban search and rescue team, Hausman explained his desire for exclusivity during a recent address at the Washington National Cathedral.
“I have training, experience and skills that [many people] don’t have, and my job is to use my life experience and skills to help them,” he said.
Joined by Rev. Eric Manning, senior pastor at Emmanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina, Rev. Frank Pomeroy of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Sherri Pomeroy, also of Sutherland Springs, Hausman conveyed the events of Oct. 27 while imparting a message that “knowledge helps prevent fear.”
The May 13 program was organized by the District of Columbia’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, Metropolitan Police Department and Mayor’s Office of Religious Affairs. Though closed to the press, the gathering enabled participants to share strategies for preparedness, Hausman explained after returning to Pittsburgh.
Whether it is “Stop the bleed, run hide fight, CPR or ALICE, the more training you have the less fearful you will be, and the more knowledgeable you will be about the actions you can take to control your destiny and not be frozen with fear,” he said.
For each of the speakers, the recent program was a chance to relate their own familiarities with violence. In 2015, 11 people were killed during a shooting inside the Charleston church. In 2017, 26 people were killed during a shooting inside the Sutherland Springs church, including the Pomeroys’ 14-year-old daughter.
DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency praised the group in a Facebook post: “Thank you to Reverend Eric Manning, Alan Hausman, Reverend Frank Pomeroy, and Mrs. Sherri Pomeroy for sharing your experiences so that we may identify the steps needed to create a safer, stronger and more resilient DC.”
Hausman offered similar endorsement of his fellow presenters.
“It’s pretty powerful to spend time with them. They’re just great people,” he said. “Listening to them one on one, and gaining their friendship, it was very helpful.”
Particularly noteworthy was a piece of advice offered, Hausman explained.
The guidance delivered was that “the most important thing is we will not get over this. We will just learn how to deal with it. You will always think about it and there will always be times that take you back to that day, and that’s unfortunately just how it is,” he said.
Reflecting on that point has helped the Pittsburgher appreciate his role moving forward.
He said that he, Manning and the Pomeroys “are members of a very small club” and what the group made known to listeners at the Cathedral was that they were not trying to be offensive “but we don’t want you in our club. We want to keep it just us, and we want to come back next year and it’s just us. We don’t want anyone to be in our shoes. It’s just not fun.”
Apart from joining the May 13 program, Hausman participated in the National Conference of Shomrim Societies. Held on May 14, the opportunity allowed Hausman to share an additional message while he was in the nation’s capital.
“Whereas Rabbi Myers says we shouldn’t use the ‘H word,’ I tell everyone the words we abuse are ‘tolerate’ and ‘tolerance.’ We say we should tolerate other people, and I say that’s the wrong word. We should accept everyone. I don’t tolerate you because you are black or tall or female or whatever. I just accept you for whoever you are,” Hausman noted.
Whether it is being joined by recognized faith leaders at the National Cathedral or speaking before a group of fellow Jewish government employees, there is a sense of guilt that comes with each endeavor, he said.
“It makes me feel bad that I am getting all this credit. I just want to convey our message and I hope that I am doing a good job,” he said.
“It’s a horrible reason why we are doing this. We just want to help people move forward.” Part of that process is recognizing that “it’s OK to say you’re not OK. There’s a stigma about mental illness and we’re always afraid to say ‘I need help’ or ‘I don’t feel good.’ Everybody needs a little bit of help and someone to lean on and talk to every once in a while.”
Maintaining such relationships is critical, Hausman continued.
“We need to make connections as a community to stay together and move forward.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.