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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — One of the survivors of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting says his experience hiding from the gunman and escaping out a side door was terrifying, but in the days following, he says he’s been uplifted by the people of Pittsburgh.
Retired Pittsburgh psychiatrist, E. Joseph Charny of Squirrel Hill, was in the Tree of Life Synagogue just before 10 a.m. Saturday when a day of worship turned into a day of bloodshed, then a day of mourning.
“I didn’t know anything right away other than there’s a guy with a gun, and I better get away,” Charny said. “There’s no way we could protect the people who were just wide open, I know we tried.”
Charny, a member of the Tree of Life Synagogue since the 1950s, along with a rabbi and another member of the congregation, were able to flee to another section of the synagogue where they hid in a upstairs closet.
Eventually, they were able to slip out of the building through a side door.
“We were occupying two small places where we could hide out. After, I don’t know, 15-20 minutes or something like that, we were getting antsy wondering what was going on and we weren’t hearing anything. We decided, however, if we were going to get out that we would not get out the way we got in,” Charny said.
Outside the synagogue, Charny and his companions were met by police.
“We saw a body or two as we left,” he said. “We knew we couldn’t do anything about them, that they were no longer alive and our best bet was to save ourselves. It was really awful.”
Charny said while he won’t be able to forget the horror of last Saturday, the prayer service and gathering in Oakland Sunday night was both uplifting and comforting.
“What we saw [Sunday] at 5 p.m. with Soldiers and Sailors [Memorial Hall] packed, rain outside and people outside, standing in the rain and just to be there, to show support, that’s Pittsburgh,” said Charny. “This is what we have to do on a bigger scale.”