In the wake of the Tree of Life massacre, Pittsburghers demonstrated that they will not be defined by the actions of one man but by the strength and unity of the community.
The December cover story was expected to focus on the “Pittsburgh’s Tomorrow” feature, in which we ask experts from all walks of life what challenges face our region and how we can solve them. But that was before Saturday, Oct. 27.
That morning, worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill were brutally attacked by a gunman who left 11 people dead and six injured, some seriously. The Baldwin man who surrendered to police at the scene faces federal hate crime charges and homicide charges, among others.
Those of us who know and love Pittsburgh wonder how could this happen here. How could a city renowned for its rich Jewish culture also foster such anti-Semitism? How could a city with a history as a melting pot of people from different countries also be the scene of one of the deadliest attacks on the Jewish community in U.S. history?
I asked myself if this heinous act has shattered not only my impression of Pittsburgh, but that of the world’s. Then I saw the sadness on people’s faces at the vigils. The loving embraces. The resolution that we will not be defined by the actions of one man but by the strength and unity of the community.
That inspired us at Pittsburgh Magazine to reshape this issue to focus on “Faith.” To show not only that different cultures of faith can and do come together in our city but also to show that they will not allow their differences, no matter how significant, to divide them. We also have not lost faith in Pittsburgh and the people who call it home. Just last month, Pittsburgh Magazine featured a story about how well the city is prepared for a catastrophe. Sadly, we found out all too soon, but we can be proud of how our community responded to the unthinkable.
Pittsburgh still has a lot to be proud of, but we cannot afford to allow the accolades to blind us to the challenges we are facing and the work we must do to correct our shortcomings. We can rise to this latest challenge that has been thrust upon us. The visionaries in the “Pittsburgh’s Tomorrow” feature offer a blueprint for how Pittsburgh can improve.
But to do that we have to be able to accept criticism. We can’t dismiss our neighbors who tell us that the way they experience the city is different from our own. We have to admit that it’s not enough to look at how far we’ve come; we have to look at how far we need to go. And we need the leaders of the businesses and institutions that are essential to our city’s well being and growth to acknowledge that their way isn’t always the right way and to make room at the table for alternate voices.
So as we close out the year let’s not forget who we really are and pay attention to our neighbors who say we can — and we must — do better.
Brian Hyslop can be reached at email@example.com or 412/304-0921.