Open doors

Open doors

Munich, Friday evening: mass panic breaks out at various locations around the city. With presence of mind, priest Rainer Maria Schiebler grants refuge to frightened people in the city church St. Maximilian. Still in the night he telephones with Alois Bierl, the leader of the Munich church radio. Bierl is also out and about in the city when the panic breaks out.

Interviewer: Where were you when the alarm was triggered shortly before 6 p.m. and panic set in there?

Alois Bierl, Head of Munich Church Radio: I went to the movies with my wife, right in the heart of the city, at the City Museum. Suddenly I got a phone call there – my daughter called me and asked if everything was okay with us. Through a news app, I knew beforehand that there had probably been a shooting, and my daughter then told me that there had also been shootings at Stachus and Museumsplatz. I then left the cinema, and as soon as I was out of the auditorium, I noticed a large crowd of people, completely dissolved, streaming into the courtyard of the City Museum. There were women who were one hundred percent convinced that they had heard shots and immediately sent messages to their loved ones. Then a completely distraught man ran through the courtyard shouting that he had seen men with machine guns shooting at people. This turned out to be a hoax afterwards. But it became clear what fear, which was already present in people before, can trigger, so that they suddenly live in a parallel reality. All evening long, people were gathered in this city museum, people with children, who actually didn't know what would happen next either. At that time, there was also talk of two more assassins who were still on the move in the city area. Only gradually did groups of two or three decide to go home on foot, because all means of transport were paralyzed. I then also went home, together with another man whom I had never seen before. There was already a strange mood over the city, a bit like mildew.
Interviewer: How close was this cinema to the shopping center?
Bierl: The cinema is a few kilometers away from the Olympic shopping center. But it was near the Stachus and Odeonsplatz, where a mass panic broke out as well. A colleague told me that it was like a swarm of bees. Suddenly, masses of people moved from Stachus towards Marienplatz and fled into stores or churches. The police had previously asked people to stay out of the streets and open spaces. What you have to add: the city museum is right next to the synagogue, that is, to the Israeli religious community. I felt queasy because I was afraid that such a place could also be a target for an attack. But there everything was quiet.

Interviewer: City pastor Rainer Maria Schiebler also got caught up in the events with his church. He opened his church. What exactly happened there?

BierlI was still on the phone with him at midnight. He told me that they had just had a vernissage. Suddenly – as with the city museum – people had entered the church completely dissolved. Then it gradually became clear to him that a mass panic must have broken out. The people who wanted to get in were then let in before they were locked from the inside. The event was of course cancelled. Then, when it was clear that there would be no shooting at Museumsplatz and Stachus, the sacristan, that is, the sexton and the priest, let people out drop by drop, that is, in twos and threes, provided they wanted to do so. After midnight, the church was largely empty. But there were still parishioners in the church to see if anyone else needed help. Otherwise it was really spooky last night. There were no buses, the cabs were not allowed to stop to pick up people, and I was walking through the city with a lot of trepidation. When I then walked on a bridge over the Isar, there were large gatherings of people underneath in the arch, who were completely silent, i.e. did not have a boom box running as usual. And if you met someone on the bridge or on the street, you first looked at each other suspiciously. Last night Munich really lost its smile. Everyone was in a state of tension and the city went to bed last night distraught and certainly with many tears.

Interviewer: Surely this event will be a topic in the church services today and tomorrow. What answer should the churches in Munich give to the people??

Bierl: First of all, churches must be open. I think this is the first signal: we offer spaces for people who now want to get rid of their trauma. Located very close to the Olympic Shopping Center, St. Martin, a traditional church if you will. A choir concert is scheduled to take place there tonight, but it's not yet clear whether it will be canceled. Personally, I would say: Please don't do that. Because if there's anything you need today, it's spaces where you can come to contemplation, to peace , and where you can also live out your pain together with others. Because that is clear: This attack of yesterday evening has really hit Munich to the core. We are supposedly the safest big city in the world, and when something like this happens, it has an effect on people, and that also has an impact on their inner lives and souls.

The interview was conducted by Christian Schlegel.

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