Marking One Year Since Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
One year ago today, 11 men and women were killed at prayer in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue. It was the deadliest act of anti-Semitism in American history. The alleged gunman is facing hate crime charges after espousing white supremacist views. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers was there that day and survived the massacre. In a video commemorating the anniversary, Rabbi Myers said the victims were murdered for the crime of being Jewish. But then he went on to say...
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JEFFREY MYERS: The unintended consequences of this horror are so incredibly positive and uplifting, something no one could have anticipated. People thrust together by this heinous act continue to find ways to help each other on a healing path.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: David Shribman was the editor of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and led the paper's coverage of the shooting. And he joins me now. Good morning.
DAVID SHRIBMAN: Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: How does Pittsburgh feel on this anniversary? You've written that the Tree of Life congregation is not calling it an anniversary but, obviously, a commemoration.
SHRIBMAN: Well, I believe the feeling is that this is a feeling of sadness, of regret and remorse but also of resolve, that this event which defined this community in some ways gives an opportunity for the community to define itself as a place of tolerance, a place of understanding and a place of unity. And that's what it was until Saturday morning - that Saturday morning around 11. And that's what it wants to be again today.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is that what Rabbi Myers was referring to when he talked about the incredibly positive consequences of this horror?
SHRIBMAN: Yes. I think that's what he was talking about. Although, I think Rabbi Myers would be swift to add that nobody would think that that reconciliation was worth 11 lives.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You have also written in an op-ed for your previous paper, The Boston Globe, that you spoke with Rabbi Myers on the day of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton this summer. How did Rabbi Myers and the people of Pittsburgh handle that?
SHRIBMAN: Well, it just seems a little bit like a very sad, tragic deja vu. One of the things that I might have said and has been said by others is we used to think, never again. And now we were thinking, yet again. We had all these vigils in Pittsburgh and candlelights this and services that. And yet there was Dayton and Texas. So we also have to wonder what good all that does.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's a painful thing to have to think about, I imagine.
SHRIBMAN: Lulu, there is nothing that's not painful about this episode.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you wonder what helps and if the vigils had any meaning, where does that leave you? And where does that leave the congregation?
SHRIBMAN: Well, it - those events surely help the people who are there. But they don't prevent other people from doing these tragic acts.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What conclusion, if any, does it lead you to?
SHRIBMAN: Well, it leads us to the notion that we need to remember each day, that each day has its own value, that we don't know what comes next. We don't know what tragedy is within our sight. But we know a choice we can have every day. And as I talk now, I'm looking out the window. And there just was a little leaf that fell right by. And you want to recognize and acknowledge all those things.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sir, I'd like to ask you if October 27, 2018 and this year gave you a new perspective on what it means to be Jewish in America.
SHRIBMAN: Well, it gave me a certain sense of that. Everybody in my circle knows that I also have a daughter who's about to be ordained as a rabbi. That gave me a new sense of Judaism in my own life. Her reaction to this was part of that. It also gave me a sense of what - the importance of being a journalist in America, as well.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Expand upon that a little bit.
SHRIBMAN: Well, in our coverage of this massacre, we sought to speak not only to Pittsburgh but to speak for Pittsburgh. We sought to show our values and show that we were part of a community. Now, journalism is under siege from about 9,000 directions right now. But I think it's incontrovertible. And in this period, our paper in our community was part of the community. We led the community and were led by it. And it was a horrible moment that produced a beautiful journalistic moment. And so I'm very proud of the work that my colleagues did and how they allowed their feelings to be shown while retaining their professionalism every moment.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's David Shribman, executive editor emeritus of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. His paper's coverage of the Tree of Life shootings a year ago won a Pulitzer Prize. Thank you very much.
SHRIBMAN: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.