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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Just minutes into his service on Saturday, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers found himself crouched down, on the phone with 911 operators for what felt like an eternity.
He waited as the SWAT team made their way into the Tree of Life Synagogue, eventually pulling him to safety.
On Monday, Rabbi Myers returned to the synagogue for the first time since the shooting.
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He couldn’t get himself to look at the synagogue and he also couldn’t get close because of the heavy police presence. He said he found out this morning it will be a long time until he can use his sanctuary again.
“From what I understand, our sanctuary is no longer usable. There are hundreds of bullet holes in our sanctuary,” Rabbi Myers said.
A sacred place of worship, left defiled by hatred in the form of spent magazines and shell casings.
“I stood here this morning before the light was up and I just looked at this and to me this is beautiful, but I looked at this and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is a giant mausoleum. This is big piece of concrete with all these memorials here,’” Rabbi Myers said.
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Memorials that remind Rabbi Myers of the lives he wished he could have saved
“I was on the phone with 911 for about 20 minutes, which seemed like an eternity. I’m really not sure how long I was there until the SWAT team extricated me from the building because the active shooter was still in the building,” he said.
He’s alive today thanks to the first responders who kept him on the phone and the officers that sprinted toward the danger.
“We will be back. We will be stronger than ever. Tree of Life has been in Pittsburgh for 154 years. We’re not leaving this corner of Wilkins and Shady. We will be back and we will rebuild even stronger,” he said.
The three congregations inside the Tree of Life Synagogue will continue to lean on each other as they prepare for five funerals and seven burials.
Two brothers, Cecil and David Rosenthal, and a married couple. Bernice and Sylvan Simon will have joint funerals.