PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a day Pittsburgh will never forget.
Oct. 27, 2018 started out as any normal autumn Saturday morning in western Pennsylvania, but as the dreary day had just dawned, that normalcy turned to horror.READ MORE: 'I Was Terrified:' Woman Recalls Stranger Following Her Car For Miles
An unthinkable hatred shattered one of the city’s most peaceful neighborhoods.
As gunfire rang out in the hallowed halls of the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill the nation and the world froze in terror.
WATCH: Remember, Repair, Together
The shock turned to heartbreak, then heartbreak turned to unity, and soon, our Black and Gold hearts stood together, “Stronger Than Hate.”
Now, a year later, we pause to remember.
We remember the 11 innocent lives lost, we remember the two survivors, we honor the four police officers shot while rushing in to help and we honor the countless people who have done the little things over the last year that have made a difference in the lives of people dealing with unspeakable tragedy.
A LOOK BACK AT OCT. 27, 2018
Pittsburgh’s darkest day began shortly before 10 a.m.
This nightmare-like call came over the police scanners: “5898 Wilkins Avenue. The complainant says they have an active shooter in the building. A second caller says they’re being attacked.”
A gunman, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, three semi-automatic handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, turned his fearsome arsenal on the two dozen, mostly elderly, worshippers gathered for Shabbat services on a Saturday morning.
The gunman burst through the synagogue’s lobby door firing, and then coldly and methodically, he murdered. He shot defenseless members of each of the three congregations: Tree of Life, New Light and Dor Hadash.
“There, at the other end of the building, was a man with a gun pointing it right at me,” shooting survivor Joe Charny said.
Charny and some members of the Tree of Life congregation who had gathered in the Pervin Chapel would flee and take shelter, but the gunman proceeded to kill those who couldn’t.
After shooting others from congregation Dor Hadash on the stairway, he descended to the basement where Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, from the New Light congregation, had hid some of his congregants in a storage closet.
KDKA’S Andy Sheehan’s report on Oct. 27
One of them was 87-year-old Melvin Wax who thought the danger had passed.
“So he left the storage room and he was shot twice,” said Rabbi Perlman. “Like all of the others, he didn’t deserve to die. He was a kind old man.”
When he had killed 11 people and wounded two others, the gunman was confronted in the entrance doorway by Pittsburgh Police. In an exchange of gunfire, he shot Officer Daniel Mead in the hand and Officer Michael Smidga was struck with shrapnel.
“Every available unit in the city needs to get here now. All units hold the perimeter. We’re taking on AK-47 fire from out the synagogue,” the calls continued over the police radio.
Pittsburgh Police Cmdr. Jason Lando, who had attended Tree of Life growing up, ordered the perimeter of his former synagogue surrounded and called on both city and Allegheny County SWAT teams.
“As long as we were being shot at, that took attention away from anyone who might have been hiding inside,” he said.
The gunman retreated into the building, eventually barricading himself in a third flood office.
While from their command post, police prepared their offensive. Sharpshooters took aim from a neighboring house, and with long guns drawn, the tactical team entered in search of the shooter.
Volley after volley could not dislodge the fortified gunman from the office.
In the shootout, two more officers, Pittsburgh SWAT team members Anthony Burke and Timothy Matson were wounded. Burke was shot in the arm and Matson would suffer multiple gunshot wounds.
Rather than face his own demise, the gunman then began negotiating for his own safety.
“Clear the air, we have a surrender in progress. The suspect is crawling out at this time. Clear the air,” was the call that came over the police radio.
As the horror finally came to an end, the arresting officers said as they led him out of the synagogue, the gunman stood proud of his own cowardice.
“Suspect keeps talking about all these Jews need to die. We’re still communicating with him,” the officers said over the police radio.
Later that evening, it was the young people of Squirrel Hill, students from Taylor Allderdice High School who brought the community together to begin the long process of healing, one which continues today.
WATCH: Just Stop The Hate, Thousands Attend Vigil
The streets of Mister Rogers’ neighborhood filled with mourners wanting to pray, sing, cry and remember the lives lost and the lives forever impacted by the terror that rang out earlier that same day.
Click here to for more on the tragic events of Oct. 27, 2018.
They were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cherished friends.
For their loved ones, a year later, the healing continues. As it also does for the congregations of Tree of Life, Dor Hadash, New Light, the greater Jewish community and all of Pittsburgh.
PHOTO GALLERY: Remembering The Victims
Rose Mallinger was the oldest victim of the shooting.
At 97, Rose was sharp and filled with energy and warmth, said her daughter, Andrea Wedner, who is a survivor of the shooting.
“She lit up a room and she made everybody smile,” said Wedner. “She liked being social, she just loved life.”
WATCH: Rose Mallinger laid to rest
Her family said she had a sharp wit, humor and intelligence until her very last day.
Close family members called her “Bubbie,” the Yiddish word for grandma.
Melvin Wax was 88.
He was a retired accountant, father and grandfather.
Some friends remember how he loved to tell corny jokes, but survivor Dan Leger knew another side of him.
“He was a very serious fellow, so it’s interesting for me to hear that he had a sense of humor, because I didn’t know that about him that way at all. To me, he was always a very serious, let’s get down to Torah here,” said Leger.
WATCH: Remembering Melvin Wax
Wax’s neighbors said he lived his faith.
“There was a sweetness about him, that was always very clear,” Leger said.
Sylvan & Bernice Simon
Sylvan and Bernice Simon are the couple remembered as “always together.” True partners in life, married 62 years earlier at Tree of Life.
“On the 27th, when we walked in, they were standing in the back right at the door to greet us, she always asked about my granddaughter, just loving, kind people,” said Wedner.
WATCH: The Simons Are Laid To Rest
“He had a very gruff presence sometimes, he could be very rough around the edges, and just sort of tell you like it was, and his wife was the great mediator in those episodes where he was showing his gruffness. They were really well-matched,” added Leger.
The Simons lived in Wilkinsburg.
Dan Stein had recently become a grandfather. You knew that because he talked about it.
“He was overjoyed to become a grandfather,” Leger said. “His little guy, Henry. He was just so happy.”
WATCH: Remembering Dan Stein
His family said Stein was a man of family and faith.
Stein, 71, lived right in Squirrel Hill.
“No surprise that he was there and he was early and always helped set up,” Stein’s niece, Jennifer Halle, said. “When my brother let me know there was an active shooter, I just knew in my heart that he was… I just knew it.”
Irv Younger was another proud grandfather, always showing off pictures and always sharing a funny story or two.
“Always the delayed punch line. You had to go through the whole preliminary to get to the awful punch line,” Leger said. “Just a quiet, gentle, kind fella, and he had great hair.”
WATCH: Remembering Irving Younger
He lived in Mount Washington, where his friends described him as a neighborly neighbor.
They say he just loved to talk about his children and grandchildren, and what they were up to.
Cecil & David Rosenthal
Leger says Younger was sensitive to the disabilities of the two brothers who were killed. But everyone who worshipped at the Tree of Life building considered Cecil and David Rosenthal their friends.
“I would walk in the chapel, and of course they were always there early, bright and early, and Cecil would say to me, ‘you look beautiful today,’ and tell my mother. One time he kissed my hand,” Wedner said. “He just was a good soul, and David was quiet.”
Although, Leger says to worship alongside David was moving.
“To hear him pray, some of it was nonsense words, some of it was pigeon Hebrew. It was from the heart, it was just totally from the heart,” Leger said.
WATCH: Random Acts of Kindness Week “Love Like The Boys” Celebrates The Brothers
David had also confided in Leger a special interest in their congregation’s cantor.
“He would say, ‘I wanna marry that Cheryl.’ And then he said, ‘What does it mean to get married, what’s that mean, Dan?’ So we talked a little about those things. But he was just this smiling, wonderful presence in the world. I miss David,” Leger said.
They were such kind souls, the brothers’ family has paired with ACHIEVA over the past year for a movement they are calling “Love Like The Boys.”
On the movement’s Facebook page, members are encouraged to share their random acts of kindness with the group.
Joyce Fienberg had recently become more involved at Tree of Life, joining the board there.
“She was a lovely woman, very kind and sweet, and was always there early. She had her own book and she had pages marked with post it notes,” said Wedner.
“I remember her smile. She just had this absolutely genuine engagement in her face and in her eyes and in her smile that was just really beautiful,” Leger said.
WATCH: Remembering Joyce Fienberg
She was well-known in the higher education community in Oakland.
Fienberg, 75, was a fixture at the University of Pittsburgh. She was a research specialist there, but also beloved at Carnegie Mellon University, where her husband was the chair of the Department of Statistics.
Dr. Richard Gottfried
Dr. Richard Gottfried is remembered as a leader of his congregation, a big Pitt fan and a dentist who often volunteered his expertise helping patients through Catholic Charities.
Since the shooting, Leger and Wedner have since become close with his relatives.
“We’ve learned a lot about him through his family, which has been great,” said Wedner. “They are all wonderful people and we’ve just really developed warm relationships.”
WATCH: Remembering Dr. Richard Gottfried
His patients called the 65-year-old Dr. Rich, known for his compassion and way of making them feel comfortable during their visit.
For 34 years, he ran dental offices in Ross Township and West View with his wife, Margaret, better known as Peg. She is Catholic and the couple used their faith to help others.
Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz
The death of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who was also beloved by his patients, hit many hard. He was Leger’s close friend.
“I’ve heard so much about him, in particular, because, as a physician, he touched so many people’s lives,” Leger said. “Jerry was always the busiest person in the room, and the first person to say ‘I’ll do it.’”
WATCH: Remembering Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz
Dr. Rabinowitz was not only highly regarded for his knowledge and skill as a doctor, but he was a caring and kind person. He took time to listen to his patients, and never made you feel like you were being rushed out.
“So kind, so giving, so warm, so smart,” he added. “He was the kind of guy that when anybody he had ever known for five minutes was in the hospital, he was there in the morning to see them, not officially, not to do anything in the medical record or do anything other than to be there for them, let them know he cared. Jerry was a mensch.”
Dan Leger and Andrea Wedner were the two other people shot that horrible day at Tree of Life. They are the survivors.
A year later, they are filled with appreciation.
Grateful to still be alive. Grateful for the first responders who rescued them and the medical experts who saved them. And grateful for the community that’s held them so close.
Leger was shot in the torso, critically wounded. He spent weeks in the hospital, and has had multiple surgeries with more to come.
“When people ask me how I’m doing I always say, ‘thank God.’ That’s first, the sense of gratitude to be here, to be alive. It’s day to day, you know, today’s a good day, and there are some days that aren’t so good,” Leger said.
Wedner was shot in the arm during the gunfire. She’s had four surgeries.
Her mother, Rose Mallinger, died from her injuries.
Despite such a great loss, Wedner still has a positive outlook on life.
“The community, friends, family, the support that we’ve gotten from everybody,” Wedner said. “Being with people, seeing people, their positive attitude towards me. Yeah, it’s just, life’s good.”
As the two who survived, Leger and Wedner share a unique bond. They also share a desire to keep alive the memories of those who were killed.
THE BRAVE FIRST RESPONDERSREAD MORE: Domestic Incident Inside Of The Mall At Robinson Leads To Chaotic Scene
Six heroic police officers were wounded while trying to put an end to the horrific scene inside the synagogue.
As the alleged gunman, Robert Bowers, retreated back into the building, the gunman’s attention shifted from killing innocent victims to his own survival.
Pittsburgh Police Cmdr. Jason Lando grew up in Squirrel Hill and spent his boyhood at the Tree of Life Synagogue. On the morning of Oct. 27, he was in his police cruiser when he heard the report of gunfire at the synagogue.
Within seconds, he was taking command of the massacre, trying to capture the shooter. It’s something for which he takes no credit.
“Being outside, just trying to manage the logistics of the scene, pales in comparison to those guys who went into a gun battle knowing that they were probably going to get shot,” Cmdr. Lando told KDKA’s Andy Sheehan.
One of those wounded officers was Pittsburgh Police Officer Dan Mead. He ran into the synagogue, not knowing what he was up against.
WATCH: 911 Dispatchers Keep Terrified Worshippers & Officers Safe
As he rounded the corner, he at first couldn’t see anything but smoky glass. Then, he encountered Bowers, who had a gun pointed right at him.
Bowers fired at Mead and struck him in the wrist.
Officer Mead’s sister, Diane, says her brother is a hero.
“I know he’s a hero. I know he is. He went running to those people. He went running to them. I don’t know if I could have done that,” Diane said.
SWAT team members from around the city assembled on site. Tactical Cmdr. Clint Timmons ordered them to rush the building, and in the ensuing gunfight, Bowers would also shoot and wound both Officers Anthony Burke and Timothy Matson.
Back outside, Cmdr. Lando was in charge of the most horrific and intensely personal incident of his career: trying to capture Robert Bowers without any more loss of life.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers: “I Refuse To Let The Perpetrator Make Me Another Full-Time Victim”
All the while, he was battling uncertainty. His 98-year-old grandfather attended Tree of Life nearly every morning, especially on the Sabbath.
“For the first 30 minutes of the incident, I was pretty convinced that my grandfather was in there, and he was going to be one of the victims,” he recalled.
Fortunately, his grandfather wasn’t inside at the time of the shooting. He had miraculously decided to stay home that day.
Bowers eventually surrendered, but not before six police officers were injured in the gunfight.
WATCH: SWAT Team Members Run Towards Gunfire To Keep Others Safe
The injured officers were identified as:
- Timothy Matson
- Daniel Mead
- Anthony Burke
- Michael Smidga
- John Persin
- Tyler Pashel
RELATED STORY: One Year Later: The Wounded Officers Speak Out
Matson suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Mead was shot in the hand.
Burke suffered a gunshot wound to the hand. Smidga suffered a graze wound and/or shrapnel wound to the head.
Persin and Pashel were not shot, but both went to the hospital for other injuries. Persin was hospitalized with hearing concerns and issues. Pashel suffered a knee injury.
“What the SWAT officers did was just, it was incredible. It was some of the most heroic things I’ve ever witnessed, and they were the ones who went in after him,” Cmdr. Lando said. “Officer Matson, and his fellow officers, Officer Burke, that were in there, the SWAT team, they took bullets to save other people’s lives.”
Following the days of the hateful shooting, an outpouring of love and support flooded Pittsburgh. Neighbors held each other closer, fighting the darkness with light.
Flowers, candles and a Star of David for each of the eleven victims were set up in front of the synagogue following the shooting.
As the community continued to mourn, the pile of flowers at the base of the memorials continued to grow.
Even those who weren’t geographical neighbors joined the Pittsburgh community in its darkest hours. When the Carolina Panthers played against the Steelers, the team delivered yellow lilies.
Pittsburgh neighbors stood in solidarity with one another.
Thousands flocked to the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland for a vigil. And when there was no room left inside, they moved outside into the rain, sharing umbrellas and heavy hearts.
The auditorium held 2,500 people and about 1,500 more were outside.
WATCH: Christian Chaplain Stands, Prays With Mourners At The Memorial
Jeffrey H. Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, began the vigil.
“After a raging anti-Semite shot up a holy place of worship on our Shabbat and murdered our extended Pittsburgh Jewish family, we needed to be here because at times like these, we need community. We need the comfort of each other. We need love, not hate, and we need that giant hug that this Pittsburgh Jewish community always gives,” Finkelstein said.
Pittsburgh’s resiliency was also celebrated at a peace rally featuring Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton.
Tom Hanks shared the stage with Fred Rogers’ wife, Joanne, to offer an emotional tribute to the people of Pittsburgh.
WATCH: Tom Hanks Addresses Mourners On A Rainy Day At The Point
“The people of Pittsburgh live in good neighborhoods that do not divide the city, but that define it. A visitor here will learn of the unbreakable bond shared by all who wear the black and the gold. A connection stronger than the iron and steel forged in the furnaces of this city, here in the American heart. A visitor will know that Pittsburgh is a great city because Pittsburgh has been greatly tested. And in those trials, in your days of struggle, Pittsburgh has set an example of what can come next. And that what can come next can be good. In these past weeks, America and the world has been a visitor to your iron city. Pittsburgh has shown us what does come next, what good comes when the people of Allegheny and the Monongahela love their neighbors with no exceptions. Thank you, Pittsburgh for your example, for your inspiration and for your love of each other,” Hanks said.
Michael Keaton, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, Brett Keisel and Gov. Tom Wolf were among the others who spoke.
The first funeral services were held on Oct. 30, just three days after the shooting.
KDKA’s Pam Surano Reports On Cecil & David Rosenthal’s Funerals:
Funeral services for Cecil and David Rosenthal began at noon at the Rodef Shalom Temple in Oakland.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, of Tree of Life Synagogue, said the nearly inseparable pair were permanent fixtures at the synagogue. He said in 35 years, the two brothers never missed services. He described them as the two sweetest human beings you could ever meet.
A line formed around the temple at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Morewood as thousands came to pay their respects. Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, injured linebacker Ryan Shazier, several other players and Art Rooney II were among those who attended the visitation. The family had a close relationship with the team.
WATCH: Menorah Lighting Held Outside Tree Of Life Synagogueb
“I hope their spirit lives on,” said Steelers legend Franco Harris. “This is for everybody, this affects everybody.”
Retired Steelers player Brett Keisel served as a pallbearer.
Funeral services were also held Tuesday at 11 a.m. for 66-year-old Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz. At times, the line was wrapped around the block as mourners came to pay their respects.
The silence spoke volumes as mourners walked out of the Robinson Building, where the services were held, right across the street from the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill.
KDKA’s Brenda Waters Reports On Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz’s Funeral
Family, friends and patients came to remember, to pray and to celebrate Dr. Rabinowitz’s life.
Dr. Rabinowitz, a primary care physician in Edgewood, was called a gentle and caring man. Family members say he was not ambushed by the alleged shooter, but killed while rushing to save others in the synagogue who had come to pray.
Funeral services for 71-year-old Daniel Stein, a devoted grandfather, also took place Tuesday.
Stein was a past president of the New Light congregation and was the current president of their men’s club. He was married with two children and recently became a grandfather.
Funeral services for the victims continued after that, laying the 11 to rest, one by one.
THE PRESIDENTIAL VISIT
President Trump and the First Family visited Pittsburgh the Tuesday after the shooting to pay their respects and mourn for the 11 lost lives.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived in Pittsburgh around 3:45 p.m. on Oct. 30, along with Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner.
The four first traveled to the Tree of Life Synagogue, where they met Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, of the Tree of Life — Or L’Simcha Congregation.
After spending time inside the synagogue, they placed stones on the 11 Star of David memorials set up outside.
The First Family then went to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital where shooting victims were receiving treatment.
At the time of the presidential visit, UPMC said a 70-year-old victim was in critical condition, a 61-year-old female was in stable condition and a 55-year-old male officer was in stable condition.
WATCH: President Trump Visits Pittsburgh
In one room, the First Family gathered with four patients and their families. They listened to the survivors’ harrowing stories and expressed their condolences.
The other victims, still recovering and not well enough to leave their rooms, received visits from the First Family in their own individual hospital rooms.
WATCH: President Trump Meets With Officer Daniel Mead
Dr. Don Yealy, UPMC Chief of Emergency Medicine, says President Trump spent a “considerable amount of time” speaking and visiting with the patients, expressing his condolences.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner also met with the patients and their families. They wanted to hear the survivors’ stories as well as express their condolences.
While there, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump also met with the doctors who saved the lives of shooting victims.
First responder representatives who helped during the shooting were also at the hospital to meet the First Family.
Dr. Yealy says President Trump expressed his gratitude for their service, as well as his sorrow over the tragic events through which the first responders fought. Dr. Yealy also says President Trump wanted to listen to the first responders’ heroic stories.
Four police officers were shot, and two others were injured in the shooting.
The gunman accused of murdering 11 innocent worshippers is 46-year-old Robert Bowers.
Bowers was charged in a 44-count indictment the Wednesday following the massacre. The next day at his arraignment, he pleaded not guilty on federal charges.
From the beginning of the case, federal prosecutors were looking to pursue the death penalty for Bowers.
When Bowers’ defense attorney, Judy Clarke, offered a guilty plea in exchange for life, two congregations told KDKA’s Andy Sheehan that they wanted the government to take the deal.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan Reports On Trial Of Accused Shooter
New Light Co-President Stephen Cohen said a quick end to the process would spare his congregants the trauma of living Oct. 27 all over again. “The people who have to testify, the people who have to watch, the people who have to relive every day — it’s just mind-boggling,” he said.
The third congregation, Tree of Life, offered no comment.
A week later on Aug. 26, federal prosecutors filed a notice to seek the death penalty.
The filing backs up what U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady had indicated when he charged Bowers with the obstruction of an exercise of religious belief resulting in death, a hate crime that could merit execution under the federal system.
When Bowers offered to plead guilty in exchange for life without release, court documents released in October showed federal prosecutors, still seeking the death penalty, rejected his guilty plea.
WE ARE “STRONGER THAN HATE”
The “Stronger Than Hate” symbol – a Pittsburgh Steelers logo with a yellow Star of David replacing the top diamond – was seen on shirts, signs and even shoes following the Tree of Life massacre.
Tim Hindes, a graphic designer, created the symbol. The words “Stronger Than Hate” were chosen to accompany his design.
Underground Printing partnered with the Steelers and Hindes to originally create the symbol and print it on t-shirts. Proceeds from the sales of those shirts amounted to a $70,000 donation to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Victims of Terror fund.
KDKA’S Brenda Waters Interviews “Stronger Than Hate” Symbol Creator
Steelers President Art Rooney II, Hindes and Mike Withrow, of Underground Printing, presented the $70,000 check to Meryl Ainsman, the Chair of the Board for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh before a Sunday Steelers game.
Others followed suit. One company, 123shirt.com, printed “Stronger Than Hate” shirts after the shooting. They said the orders weren’t just going to Pittsburgh – they were going all over the country.
Following the horrific tragedy at Tree of Life, the symbol came to signify love, strength and Pittsburgh values.
Even the bitter rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots was bridged by the symbol when Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman wore “Stronger Than Hate” cleats to a game in Pittsburgh, honoring the victims.
At a different game, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wore a pair of “Stronger Than Hate” cleats.
A year later, the symbol is still a prevalent sign of Pittsburgh’s resiliency. The epitome perhaps being one Pittsburgh man who climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro — a daring feat — and unveiled a “Stronger Than Hate” banner.
RECOVERING & REOPENING
Now, every Oct. 27 in Pittsburgh will be known as a day of remembrance.
Pittsburgh City Council offered a special resolution to honor the 11 victims killed in the Tree of Life shooting and reclaim Oct. 27 as “Remember Repair Together Day.”
KDKA’s Ken Rice reports On Heightened Synagogue Security:
Gov. Tom Wolf also declared Oct. 27 as “Remember Repair Together Day” across the entire state.
WATCH: Tree Of Life Meets With Charleston Church To Continue Healing
“A year has passed, but I continue to carry sorrow for the victims and their families of this heinous attack,” said Gov. Wolf.
“We must honor them by remembering, and through our thoughts, prayers and actions. I ask all Pennsylvanians to spend Oct. 27 doing the same in their honor. Pittsburgh is a city of bridges, and so it is a fitting tribute to commemorate this occasion with a day of building bridges of understanding, welcome and friendship.”
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan Reports On Squirrel Hill’s Healing Process:
While the road to recovery is far from over, on this Oct. 27, the Tree of Life Synagogue will be a beacon of hope.
On Oct. 18, church leaders announced their plans to renovate and reopen the church.
WATCH: Tree Of Life Faces Decisions About Its Future
Deciding what to do with the synagogue, which has closed its doors since the deadly attack, was a difficult task.
While some believed restoring it would honor the victims, others said they could never set foot in the synagogue again.
Tree of Life ultimately made the decision to renovate the building in hopes that it will serve as a “center for Jewish life in the United States,” and a symbol against hatred.
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller Reports On New Tree Of Life Plans:
Members say they don’t want the Tree of Life to be remembered as the synagogue that was attacked, but rather the synagogue that survived.
Plans unveiled for the Tree of Life Synagogue include places for worship. Plans are also in place for a memorial, as well as classrooms and exhibits.
The Pittsburgh officers injured in the shooting are also recovering.
While they say the time is not yet right for the officers to speak, Public Safety wants to share an update, as well as written statements from three of the officers who were shot.
From Officer Dan Mead:
“There’s no reason why I should still be living, but I am and I want to thank everyone for everything they did and continue to do to support me.
I want to thank the Jewish Community, my family including my sister Diane and my girlfriend Lisa, Pittsburgh Police and all the other police departments, the firemen, the medics, the doctors — everybody. It was a huge team effort and I want to thank everybody for helping me.
The Jewish Community’s support and the ways they have shown their appreciation — I’m not used to that. As a carpenter, I would do a job and you’d say, ‘Hey, nice job,’ and I’d leave and go do the next job. But they have been so appreciative, and it’s overwhelming. They’re saying thank you, but I need to say thank you to them.
My father was on this job and I looked up to him and that’s why I signed up to be a police officer. I tried for this job. I wasn’t drafted into it. These poor people that lost their lives and their families, they didn’t sign up for that. Not a day goes by that I don’t say my prayers for these people. I feel for them.
I was an officer in the wrong place at the right time. I was never one of these super cops, but when it’s time to take care of business, you take care of business. That’s what we signed up for and that’s what we did.”
From Officer Anthony Burke:
“To all those who helped support my fiancée and me over this time of healing, you have my utmost gratitude.
I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically thank the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh for their enormous and unparalleled support, without which the burden of everyday life would be unbearable. I sincerely cannot thank you enough.
To the Pittsburgh community and the people who volunteered, donated, and supported my recovery, all I can say is: Yinz are the best.
To my coworkers and their families, my brothers and sisters in blue in Pittsburgh and from around the country, thank you for watching my six, and thank you for taking care of Sam and me. I can’t wait until I’m back in service running calls alongside you.
While my period of healing is coming to an end, there are 11 families who continue to grieve and heal. Please direct your continued support towards them during this tragic weekend and going forward.”
From Officer Timothy Matson:
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“I would like to thank the community, my friends, family and coworkers, and people from across the world for their support. The support I received was incredible. I have never experienced anything like it. In more ways than I can express, your support helped me through the toughest time of my life.
I would like to thank the UPMC staff that took care of me. After the lengthy stay and multiple surgeries the list of people to thank is long, but I would like you all to know that the lengths you went to put me back together and take care of my needs will never be forgotten.
I would also like (to) thank my Pittsburgh SWAT teammates. Your actions that day are why I’m here.”
Now, a year later, Tree of Life and its congregants will honor the past by looking to the future.