Of the more than a million people who poured into Krakow to celebrate World Youth Day 2016 last week, a youth group from La Jolla, CA, may have been the most grateful of all to be there.
The 10 teenagers and seven adults, led by youth leader Bob Schrimpf, were on their way to Krakow via Munich, Germany. While upstairs in the Hofbrauhaus (a famous beer hall next to the popular Olympia-Einkaufszentrum shopping mall) a deadly shooting broke out, followed by chaos. “Someone was shot outside and another person yelled ‘he’s got a gun,'” recalls Schrimpf, who remembers hearing a few short pops and then semi-automatic gunfire.
Members of the youth group were in different places when it happened — some in the bathroom, others on the stairs. Eighteen year-old Julia Albanez could think of only one thing to do. “While hiding under the tables in the Hofbrahaus, waiting in fear if the shooter would come upstairs, all I could think about doing was praying to God,” she says. “I prayed the Our Father, over and over and over. I’m not sure if it was because I was thinking that this moment would be the last of my life, but it helped me calm down and give me clarity in the darkest time of my life.”
After being on lock down, the group was finally reunited in their hotel around 2:00 a.m., still rattled after a terrifying walk back. They began processing what had happened and discussing what to do next.
“We shared how we felt, and what was going on in our minds and hearts…” says Schrimpf. “We also prayed — there were victims and families and a terrorist (we didn’t know how many) that all needed our prayers.”
But the big question was: do they continue on or head home?