The deadliest attack on the Jewish community in American history occurred in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the Tree of Life Synagogue. While people still remain in shock and grief, Mayor Bill Peduto fulfilled the role of a true leader. He had this say to the people within his great city and the country at large.
In an interview with TODAY‘s Willie Geist, the mayor came from a place of strength, offering hope and comfort. He told the NBC show’s host:
‘The first thing you do is take care of the victims. Pittsburgh is stronger than hate.’
The gunman, weighed down with weapons, killed a minimum of 11 people and wounded another six, including four police officers, in the shootout. The door of the synagogue was open, because this was supposed to be a place of peace. Robert Bowers walked through the Tree of Life’s doors right before services were to begin.
Bowers was apparently filled with hatred and vitriol. He kept shouting out anti-Semitic phrases as he mowed down the many in front of him by firing off an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. One observer said that the floor was covered with shells.
Pittsburgh officials listed the victims who died during a news conference. The mayor claimed Donald Trump’s plan was wrong-headed. He said, according to The Washington Post:
‘These were the) darkest day of Pittsburgh’s history. The approach we need to be looking at is how we take the guns — the common denominator of every mass shooting in America — out of the hands of those looking to express hatred through murder.’
A special agent out of FBI’s Pittsburgh office released a few more details. When Bowers left the synagogue, he engaged in a firefight with the police. According to the authorities, Bowers remained inside of the synagogue about 20 minutes. After that, he surrendered. That was when he told them, according to the TODAY show:
‘They’re committing genocide to my people. (I) wanted all Jews to die.’
The mayor said that his job was to talk to the families of the shooting victims. It was not easy, but it was his responsibility, he felt. He told Geist:
‘I can just tell you it’s heartbreaking.’
He continued, saying this was literally “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” then when he was asked about how Squirrel Hill’s neighborhood was handling the incident:
‘Fred Rogers lived three blocks away from here. It’s Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, quite literally. This is a very tight-knit community. I live five blocks from where I’m standing right now.’
Mayor Peduto said in this community “we take care of one another.” He added that in the city, “We fight hate with love:”
‘We fight hate with love. We fight it with compassion. We fight it with an understanding that a neighborhood like Squirrel Hill is the most diverse in all of Western Pennsylvania, is a welcoming community that welcomes everyone. It’s a community whose foundation is based on that understanding.’
Chief Executive and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League Jonathan Greenblatt said, the Washington Post reported:
‘This was the single most lethal and violent attack on the Jewish community in the history of the country. We’ve never had an attack of such depravity where so many people were killed.’
The police shot the man who conducted this horrendous acts prior to his surrender. At this time, he is under federal custody and in fair condition. Two of the police who were shot during the massacre remained in stable condition.
Featured image is screenshot via YouTube.