Editorial: Pittsburgh will heal


Anna Bongardino | Visual Editor

Mourners embrace after the Saturday night vigil for the victims of the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue ends.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

A man walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue Saturday morning in Squirrel Hill, where a circumcision ceremony called a bris was being held to celebrate new life. Amid cries of anti-Semitic hatred, the shooter opened fire on the worshippers. Eleven died and six were wounded.

We grieved with Parkland, Florida, Orlando, Florida, Las Vegas and countless other cities as their communities dealt with the aftermath of the tragedies that took place there. For those of us who didn’t have a connection to those places, we could only understand what we read. But when we experience the tragedy firsthand, the sorrow and loss is unbearable.

Pittsburgh now understands how devastating it is when neighbors, friends and family members are the victims of this kind of senseless act of violence.

We didn’t expect to be thrust into the national spotlight in this way. We didn’t expect we’d become another member of a long, growing list of cities that have been the victims of mass shootings. Squirrel Hill is a peaceful, historically Jewish neighborhood about a mile away from Pitt’s campus — too close to home for it to happen to us.

It’s this proximity that makes the shooting more hurtful for Pittsburghers than any other shooting. We didn’t learn about it through national news outlets transmitting the information from thousands of miles away — we learned about it through word of mouth and the sound of sirens down the road.

It hurt more because our city was attacked. We view Pittsburgh as a city unlike most — it’s a quirky coal and steel town in western Pennsylvania, a city of neighborhoods, a symbol of hope and grit. These are what form the Pittsburgh community. When a member of the community takes away the lives of 11 other people, this image is shattered.

It hurt more because we can see the effects it has on our neighbors, our friends and our coworkers. We grieve collectively, attending vigils and comforting one another. We can witness and empathize with the raw emotion that everyone is feeling.

And it hurts more because it was an attack on Pittsburghers exercising their religion in one of America’s most deeply rooted Jewish communities. We recognize that anti-Semitism is a global issue, but to see it manifested so violently in our own backyard is painful. To think that a community member could harbor so much hate against his neighbors is unthinkable.

Community response to the tragedy demonstrates just how special the Pittsburgh community is. Thousands of people attended a vigil Sunday night at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in solidarity with the victims of the shooting and the tragedy has prompted a strong show of support from other local religious organizations who condemn the hatred we saw on Saturday.

The Muslim community of Pittsburgh started a crowdfunding campaign called “Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue” to assist victims and their families. In the first six hours of the campaign, they raised $25,000. As of Sunday night, they’d raised over $100,000. The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh will work with Tree of Life to distribute the funds to victims’ families.

We grieve and mourn with Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, but we know our city will recover. This — an outpouring of love and support from people of all faiths — is how Pittsburgh will start to process and heal the wounds inflicted on our community.