Published June 12, 2009
WASHINGTON – Hundreds of visitors streamed into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as it opened Friday for the first time since a security guard was shot to death by a man authorities identified as a rifle-toting 88-year-old white supremacist.
The museum, which was closed Thursday for a day of mourning, opened shortly after 10 a.m. Officials said the crowds seemed to be about the same size as usual this time of year.
Many visitors said they were determined not to let the shooting keep them away.
Liz Johnson, 35, led a group of 12 Girl Scouts dressed in lavender T-shirts. The members of the Dallas troop were among the first in line.
"To say that we can't do this because of this event is that man winning," Johnson said. "We're not going to let him win."
Few signs of the shooting remained outside the museum. The crime scene tape was gone, and the bullet-scarred front doors had been replaced.
About two dozen flower bouquets near the entrance formed a makeshift memorial to the slain guard, 39-year-old Stephen T. Johns. On top of one bouquet was a photo of Johns, who was black, with the inscription, "Truly a righteous Gentile."
Authorities have charged James von Brunn with murder in the Wednesday attack and are looking at possible hate crime charges. Von Brunn, who was shot in the face by other guards, remained in critical condition Friday.
At Temple Beth Shalom in Arnold, Md., near von Brunn's Annapolis home, Rabbi Ari Goldstein said he planned to talk with his congregation about what happened at regular Friday night services. He said he wants to make it clear that anti-Semitism and racism are still issues.
"This is where this guy (von Brunn) is from," Goldstein noted. "Our town is not free of this type of hate."
Goldstein said he and a local black minister brought anti-Semitic and racist activity to the attention of local police several years ago after residents found leaflets in their mailboxes and driveways. The clergy filed a police report, but investigators told them the leaflets fell under the realm of free speech.
Goldstein said the congregation will recite poems and other writings in honor of Johns.