By Rick Dayton


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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Hundreds of kids lined up on along the sidewalk near Frick Park in Squirrel Hill Thursday morning. Their message was pretty simple.

Here is how Colfax Middle School sixth grader Malcolm Brown put it:

“No hate can break what Pittsburgh has.”

The kids waited in line to hang their hand-written messages on the Hope Tree.

Photo Credit: KDKA

Salvadore Rizzo said he was excited to learn about the short trip away from school today.

“I was kind of happy that we are actually going to go over this, and we are actually making people aware of what was happening,” Rizzo said.

It didn’t take long for the adults to notice.

Joel Smooke from Greenfield was walking by the park after attending morning services at his synagogue when he saw the brightly decorated tree.

“Instead of having leaves, it has all these things hanging from it and we wanted to come across to see what it said,” Smooke said,

Smooke was walking with his friend Chaim Van Sickle, another Jewish man from Greenfield. Van Sickle is blind, but listened carefully as Smooke described what the children were doing near Frick Park. He smiled when told about the Hope Tree.

“That’s a good thing. They are trying to spread the good words and things.”

Then, Van Sickle got down on his hands and knees to write the words “Tree of Life” on the sidewalk beside the artwork of the children.

The significance was not lost on the students.

“People should stop shooting,” said 10-year-old Lucas Hayes. “They should stop being violent.”

Brown is hopeful that the tree will help others think before they act in a violent manner.

“I try to go to my friends and sometimes I could do something little by being nicer to them — or I could do like we are doing here like what we are doing here and make an ornament and make something really deep into someone and say, ‘That really helped me.’”

Many of the adults who walked by and watched the kids realized that children are being forced to deal with grown-up issues.

“These are schools and communities,” said Rebecca Stack of Highland Park. “They are directly impacted. It is no longer something that happens somewhere else in a foreign country or just to grown-ups.”