“We decided to take it one day at a time. Our next stop was Prague and we left the next morning. We shared more, prayed more. We asked if anyone wanted to leave. We discovered that we were bonded and stronger as a whole than any one person,” Schrimpf says.
“We put on brave faces, but I assure you, we jumped more than once whenever we heard a car backfire or a girl screaming in excitement at seeing friends. In the end, we decided we must finish what we started. Fear could not win.”
Andrea Albanez, 18 (twin sister of Julia), says there were moments she wondered if she should continue. But over the next couple of days, as they discussed feeling insecure about their safety, one of the parents in the group went to the WYD website, searching for information on the event and its safety measures. “She read a quote to us explaining how, in a time now where there is suffering and hatred all around us, what better time to come together and show the world there is still hope and people still believing in Christ?” recalls Andrea. “After hearing that, I felt that I must continue on with my group, to not let fear win and stop us from finishing what we set out to do.”
Viviana Vasquez, 18, says she avoided calling home right after the incident because she thought her mom would convince her to come home. “I was sure that when I heard her voice I would jump on the next plane to San Diego,” she said. “But after talking to my family and hearing about all the prayers and fasting they and so many others were doing, I realized I’d never felt more loved in my life! It gave me more strength and confidence to carry on and peace with whatever else God had in store for us on this pilgrimage.”
Schrimpf says he was impressed. “This was terrifying and traumatic yet there they were giggling and laughing two days later. Moving on, always with a shadow, but brave faces all.” The experience intensified their pilgrimage and made it that much more personal.
“We knew then we were not just on a field trip,” says Schrimpf. “Life is serious and there are serious problems out there and we are by no means the only ones suffering. We saw an Iranian flag and realized they live this daily. And of course the murder of Father Jacques in France — terrible. But we thought. ‘God has a plan. We survived and we are here. Let’s find out why.'”
The teens in the group say their World Youth Day experience was profound and they would do it again if they could.