Leontine Dixon and Ellie Rinehart
On October 27th, 2018, 11 individuals were gunned down at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The tragedy cost them their lives, and captured the hearts of the American population and the Jewish community.
The day began like most Saturday mornings at the Tree of Life Synagogue. About 20 individuals, all of whom had grown to call the synagogue their home, had been attending the New Light Congregation that misty Saturday Morning.
At 9:54 am, 911 calls began flowing in from the Synagogue reporting an active shooter in the building. Mr. Weber, a 76-year-old retired information technology worker, was one of the callers. Throughout the devastating minutes on the phone, he described what he heard: the horrific and disturbing sound of gunshots followed by disheartening moments of silence.
At 10:00 am the first set of police officers arrived, and were instantly shot at by Mr. Bower, the suspect of the shooting. Miraculously, they all survived, however four of them sustained serious gunshot wounds.The SWAT team eventually found Mr. Bowerat 10:55am on the third floor, where he had barricaded himself.
At 11:08 am, the suspect finally surrendered, crawling toward the officers. The only idea that seemed to be circulating Mr. Bowers mind was that he wanted all Jews dead.
This ruthless act of violence was not only an act of terrorism, but a symbol of hatred. 11 innocent individuals were deprived of their right to live and therefore, will not and should not ever be forgotten. We pray for the 11 victims, their families, and the entirety of the Jewish community. In times of tragedy we can’t isolate ourselves from these incidences. These were real people with lives like ours. Remember that it could have been one of us.
“He was a guy that, when you walked in, he was the first person that would meet you and help you find a seat”
“Known as Mel to everyone, he was a generous, sweet man who would help anyone. We recently found out that even though he was 88, he parked several streets away from the synagogue to leave the closer spaces to ‘those who need them more.'”
“To Bubbe, family was everything. She knew her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchild better than they knew themselves. She retained her sharp wit, humor and intelligence until the very last day”
Bernice and Sylvan Simon
“Sweetest people you could imagine.”
“They wanted to give back to people and be kind.”
“You know how they say there are people who just lighten up a room? You know that cliché about people whose laugh is infectious? That was Uncle Jerry, “It wasn’t a cliché. It was just his personality.”
“She was a very petite woman but lit up a room with her huge personality. We weren’t just welcome in the classroom, but into their home”
Richard Gottfried was Jewish, and his wife, Peg Durachko, was Catholic. Together, they opened a dental practice in 1984 and helped prepare other interfaith couples for marriage through the St. Athanasius church.
“He was a fun guy, he had a dry sense of humor and everybody loved him.”
Brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal
“The kindest soul you would ever meet,”
“A smiling face. He was one of those embodiments of the community. Just open, warm, smiling, wanting to help and just in his beautiful simplicity. That’s who he was.”
Gun Culture in America
Americans have found a way to legitimize our fear, an inanimate concept, and turn it into a tangible, easily obtainable object: guns. America’s obsession with gun ownership began in the 18th century when there was a fear that our federal army would take over and our people would need to create a militia to fight for their rights. Fast forward two centuries later and shockingly enough our circumstances have changed. We are currently in the midst of a drug epidemic, ghettoization, and urban violence, but now we have added military-grade weapons such as AR-15’s to the mix.
Just months ago, a shooter on an antisemitic rampage went into a synagogue and mercilessly murdered 11 people. When Pastor Manning (the pastor of the church in Charleston who experienced a mass shooting in 2016) heard of the tragedy, his reaction was not shock but rather regret, stating “not again.”
When did we become numb to the tragedies that stain societies, rip apart families, and steal lives? There was once a time that a situation like this would be considered a national crisis, inflicting days of media coverage covering every angle of the shooting. Yet, here we are, waiting. We are waiting for when the next shooting will happen again. We are waiting for politicians who represent millions of lives to finally become aware of the legislation that has needed to be enacted since Columbine nearly two decades ago. We are living in a nation that spends billions of dollars on our military and puts countless lives at risk so that we can end senseless tragedies occurring in other countries like Afghanistan and Sudan. Meanwhile, in America, our people are being ruthlessly murdered in places we considered “safe.”
It is not just the mentally ill or deranged murderers putting our citizens at risk; anyone who owns a firearm in their house increases their risk of homicide and suicide. Due to our lack of gun regulation many homes with guns don’t practice safe gun routines. Gun owners receive more training for their driver’s licenses then for their deadly weapons. Perhaps if parents aren’t willing to get rid of these guns for themselves, then they should at least do it for their children: “the majority (89%) of unintentional shooting deaths occur in the home. Most of these deaths occur when children are playing with a loaded gun in their parent’s absence” (CHOP). Sensible guns laws should be put in place for a reason. If it wasn’t common sense before, it is now, because we can’t last a day without 96 Americans being killed from gun violence.
We degrade the situation when we take away the tension of guns. Gun owners should feel uncomfortable buying a gun, knowing a similar gun could be used not so far away to ruthlessly kill children in a classroom or in racist or antisemitic rampages. We must foster a stigma against guns, so that we are no longer scared to be in our places of sanctuary, our places of worship, our classrooms, and our homes. It is time for America to undergo a cultural revolution; we need to start thinking about gun regulation like it is life or death, because it is.