North Brunswick employees honor lives lost in Virginia Beach, discuss how to prepare for tragedy

NORTH BRUNSWICK – Holding a moment of reflective silence for the victims of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach on May 31, employees of North Brunswick learned how to be prepared for a random tragedy.

Business Administrator Kathryn Monzo, speaking on behalf of Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack, said on June 5 that the township wants to do everything possible to keep the workplace safe, especially in the municipal building. She said officials are “very sincere” about exploring all reasonable measures to protect employees’ safety.

Deputy Police Chief Joseph Battaglia said some of those measures could include closing the windows of every office, having armed security at the courts, and installing a distress signal like at the schools.

The police already undergo active shooting training every year, and more experts are expected to come in.

“We all sit at home and we watch TV and we watch these tragedies” but random tragedies can happen anywhere, he said.

He said society worries now when going to work, going to school, even going to the movies.

“No matter whether you’re here or home or shopping, be aware of your surroundings,” he said, including on social media.

If you see something, hear something or feel something, say something, he said. He also advised thinking about what you would do in a particular situation, as in hide, run or fight for your life.

The Rev. Mark McGrath, who is part of the leadership team at Point Community Church in North Brunswick, president of the senior housing building at 740 Hermann Road, the chairman of the North Brunswick Zoning Board, and a pastor for many decades, said, “We live in a crazy day. It’s not like any other season we’ve been in. There’s a different level of vulnerability. There’s a different level of awareness.”

He said elementary school children are learning about safe rooms and what to do in a crisis situation. He said these are much different than the freedoms he experienced growing up.

He said township employees are in the limelight because they are the face of an institution, representing the government.

“We don’t just live in a human world. We don’t just live in a random world. And as crazy as life may be, we live in a spiritual world,” McGrath said before saying a prayer for the dozens of municipal employees gathered in the courtroom.

Cantor Bruce Rockman of Congregation of B’Nai Tikvah in North Brunswick said he spoke a few months ago at the Islamic Society of Central Jersey in South Brunswick after the mosque shooting in New Zealand.

“What we have to do is do better ourselves,” he said. “This has been a safe place – at least it our minds it has and in our hearts it has.”

He said his own Jewish community has a bullseye on it, and the temple constantly considers the need for a police presence and other security measures.

The Rev. Norman Walter of Georges Road Baptist Church in North Brunswick said city employees, police, security workers, hospital workers and doctors deserve appreciation.

“We face something very real. We all know that,” he said.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com.