Question 1 (How were you affected?)

How did this event affect you?

This was the first time I experienced real antisemitism. I didn’t realize the extent of antisemitism since I grew up in a very Jewish area, but my whole world was shattered. I couldn’t believe something that terrible and tragic would hit so close to home. I wasn’t at services that morning, but many of my friends were and it could’ve been any synagogue that was attacked. My life changed forever, but Pitt didn’t seem to understand that. I went into a depressive state and almost dropped out.

On the day that the attack happened, I was attempting to meet a fellow classmate to work on a group project together; but I was concerned for both my safety and hers since the Tree of Life synagogue is so close to our campus and the fact that we didn’t know if the shooter was on the run from the police or not when we heard about it from the Emergency Notification System. A lot of our friends are Jewish and were heavily distraught from the incident.

It shook our university community and brought us together as we reached out to others for support, but it left us watching our backs and the illusion of safety in civil society was shattered. It was surreal to have a horror like this, like the ones all over the news, suddenly take place here, in sleepy old Pittsburgh.

I was a student teacher at Allderdice High School at the time of the shooting, and I experienced the effect of this event not just as a university student, but also as a teacher of students who lived in the area and were impacted by this tragedy. I was shocked that a mass shooting of such national significance had taken place essentially down the street from where I worked. It felt to me like a very local, community tragedy with a strong local response, so seeing the world news commenting about the shooting felt surreal.

Generally, I have always felt fairly safe in Pittsburgh compared to in other cities. But after the Tree of Life event, the safety bubble in which I lived in burst and its contents spilled from Pittsburgh to the rest of the country. In the first few months afterward, I felt uneasy simply walking down the street, restless with the notion that copycat crimes were a possibility. This type of tension struggled against and alongside the fellowship that characterizes our community, as I was brought closer to my neighbors yet painfully suspicious of them for a temporary period.

Even as a Jew in the area, the aftermath of the shooting had a greater affect on me than the shooting itself. The way that Pittsburgh healed and the way that Jews healed was impressive – I’ve never been more proud to belong to either group. I was also deeply moved by the help from the international Muslim community and my University. But feeling love that I don’t especially deserve as a response to hate that I didn’t directly receive felt… confusing, sometimes even insincere. It didn’t take long before I only wanted things to go back to normal.

It made me very sad and shocked, I was only a few minutes walk away from the terrible shooting. I was in my dorm at the time, so I felt safe enough. I did have a sense of fear though, knowing that a shooting happend so close to me. I also worried if any Pitt Students or people I knew would have been in that church.

As a student of the University of Pittsburgh, and at the time working for UPMC, it was quite traumatic. I was supposed to work at UPMC-Presbyterian that day, and ended up being transferred to a different hospital. It concerned my mother, who works at UPMC-Montefiore, for my safety as a student with no access to self defense.

As a former member of the “choir “ that sang at services, there were people whom I know that are still members, and I was distraught about what their safety status was that day.

As a young, Jew from outside of Philadelphia, I knew that antisemitism still existed. I have read about in the news, and have heard people discussing it both in school and at my home synagogue. Never before did I realize that an extreme act of antisemitism could occur in Pittsburgh. I remember seeing the “Breaking News” on TV and hearing ambulances racing towards “Tree of Life” in Squirrel Hill. I was in shock, and could not study or think about anything but those who had suffered during the rest of the day.

It was truly devastating, shocking, and heartbreaking. Belonging to a minority group myself, I felt scared and could not stop thinking about the act of hatred that had just taken place one mile away from me. For weeks I felt down, helpless, and cried because of the fact that my community had just suffered such a tragic loss. You never think it will happen to you, until it does.

I have many close friends who are Jewish as well as friends who go to Chatham which is very close to Tree of Life. I watched how it tore them apart and my heart was broken for the whole community. It personally affected me as that was the first time I’d ever experienced a mass shooting close to me. I go to the Eat n Park right there all the time and I go to school here. Seeing my community in such violence was terrifying and disheartening.

It definitely shook me. To wake up knowing that a gunman opened fire a little under 2.5 miles from my apartment was terrifying. I didn’t know if the gunman was going to move to attack the University, or if it was a chain of terrorist attacks led by a group. I was always taught that Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam all share the same root and father, Abraham. So to hear that my neighbors had been shot at was saddening. Jews have already been persecuted enough. Why hurt them more?

It’s hard to put in words how this event affected me. Was I heartbroken for the Jewish community? Yes. Did I want to help? Yes. When I first heard about the shooting, I received an “active shooter” notification on my phone. I was in Trees Hall at Pitt running to the marching band room to grab last minute things for our football game and I ignored it. Now, after processing it and other tragedies, the naive sense of safety I had as a freshman in college starts to fade away.

Worked at Tree of Life for 2 years, so personally knew many of those affected, including the victims/those lost in the shooting. My family also belonged to the synagogue, so I had a strong connection there. It made me realize that life is fragile and anything can truly happen, whether its good or bad. Most importantly in the aftermath of the shooting, it made me realize that I’m not alone in coping with tragedy, and that I had the amazing support of friends and family from all over the world.

Why did Pitt spend copious resources to offer support/counseling for students and release statements of mourning and solidarity in the aftermath of an off-campus tragedy, while they refused to even acknowledge Alina Sheykhet’s death, let alone offer support or advocate for justice? Because one situation gives them the opportunity to virtue signal, and the other is unsavory to donors and prospective students. Fuck Pitt.

In my Holland Hall dorm that morning, my roommate and I awoke to the sound of sirens. Sirens are usually the norm when it comes to living across the street from Presby, but these were louder – signifying multiple ambulances. I checked my phone to see text messages and a call from my mom. Little did I know that something had happened to my city, my family’s centerpiece. I never expected to be so personally affected by this sudden addition to the long list of America’s tragedies, yet I was not surprised.

My father works for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police as a lieutenant. Asleep at home, I was awoken by my mother to the horrible news of that tragic day. I was concerned both for the safety of the victims of this tragic event, and for the responding officers. I especially was afraid for my father, to whom I am very close. He was away at work all day that day, and I did not see him at all. I felt sorrow for the lost and injured, and I encouraged my friends, devout Catholics like myself, to pray for those affected.

It terrified me. My whole extended family had been to Tree of Life for some function or another in their lifetime. It solidified my view that episodes of mass violence can occur anywhere in this country. It made me think differently of the obstacles my Jewish and Muslim friends have to face in their lifetimes. By that I mean it started a dialogue between these friends and me on the smaller (in comparison) acts of antisemitism and Islamophobia that they have had to deal with.

it affected many of the people on my team who are Jewish. I noticed that they were more scared now, and this indirectly affected me and i wished that i could help

I remember waking up and having a pretty good morning until I got a text from my housemates telling me to check the news. I live 5 minutes away and get off at the Tree of Life bus stop every week. I have never been glued to the TV like that before. I was shocked that something like this could happen so close

This event upset me in ways that are hard to explain, as I watched Jewish friend of mine struggle to cope, my city’s name on national television, and the realization that in this political climate, religious bigotry can turn dangerous anywhere. It should have never happened, but it was an immense call to action for Pittsburgh and the world to rally against anti-semitism

It is selfish, but as a minority it was hard to separate it from my own experiences. I was scared for myself, my friends, my family far away. It hurt me that someone could go into a peaceful and sacred place to do an awful and tragic act. How soon until they would come for me?

It affected me in a lot of ways. I think about it nearly everyday. I did poorly in my classes, because it kept taking over my mind. I watched Pitt put on a face, pretend to care for about a month. Then my classmates, moved on, but I was still stuck isolating myself, feeling sick, experiencing trauma. I should’ve taken the semester off, but I was so stubborn. I felt used at times. I am still afraid to go to synagogue. Every time I’ve gone I’ve cried. I attended synagogue every week as a kid, now I am afraid.

I remember watching CNN the morning of the shooting, when all of a sudden the news anchors stopped and started covering the shooting all of a sudden. I thought this was just another shooting. However, when I saw snapshots of Pitt’s campus and UPMC Presbyterian on national television, I was in shock. In addition, as a first responder, I was horrified yet amazed and proud of the efforts of my fellow first responders in entering the building with an active shooter.

Although not being directly connected to the Jewish community, this event affected me in other ways. Having been previously within feet of a terrorist attack 2 years prior, this attack brought up memories that I had tried to suppress. This event proved what I have already believed, America is not a tolerant place. It never has been. Minority groups have always had to fear being targeted by the government and other Americans throughout this country’s history. Especially with the world becoming more divided and the increase of violence, it is becoming harder to find hope and stay positive.

Though not knowing anyone directly involved, it was still an incredibly disheartening, scary, and tragic experience within our city. Being a Pitt student, I worked to raise money and lift the spirits of those impacted by the event, but at the end of the day, seeing everyone in the community come together to events and vigils to remember those lost has impacted me the most.

This event deeply affected me especially because I am Jewish myself and feel very connected to the Jewish community in Pittsburgh. Even though I did not personally know any of the victims, it was a very painful experience for me in that I felt as though this was a deliberate attack on my community. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the whole thing and understanding this person’s intent. The sheer fact that I was 10 minutes away from where the shooting occurred also made this experience more difficult.

As a Jewish student at Pitt, this event was extremely traumatic and affected me for months to come. For the days and weeks immediately following the shooting, I cried multiple times a day, had an extremely hard time concentrating, and was consumed by thoughts of sadness and anger. It was very difficult having to “go back to normal” so soon. Students and professors who were not Jewish acted like nothing had happened, and it was infuriating. many of my Jewish friends were never given extensions or given a space to talk about their trauma.

I was supposed to be in the area that day but I was sick so I didn’t go. I heard the news and didn’t register what happened until days later, when I saw a long line of Hearses in Oakland. I didn’t know how to feel. I just sat on the bus and missed my stop and couldn’t stop thinking that each Hearse held a body, and each body once held a life.

I rent an apartment 2 blocks from Tree of Life. The initial phone call only indicated “an active shooter in the area.” The vast majority of information we received that morning was from national and international articles posted online. Until 4 pm, we were told to stay in our apartment, as our street was used for numerous firetrucks, police cars, and ambulances. For the week that followed, our neighborhood and street were flooded with people, mourners and curious alike. It took months before I stopped jumping at the sound of sirens.

This event really put into perspective that hate lives everywhere, and even what seems to be the safest communities can be vulnerable.

After the event, I questioned the safety of students and civilians of the community.

This was the third time in my life that there was a threat of an active shooter nearby me. The first time was in my high school, another time at a train station I had left just minutes before, and this just a mile away from my house. I had a difficult time trying to process my feelings, not knowing how to react.

As a Jewish student at the University of Pittsburgh, I was so shocked that this could happen in a city where I was living, especially one that has had Jewish people living in it for over a century. I actually felt scared walking around campus in the weeks following the event, and was apprehensive to attend Shabbat services and be at Hillel. But, it really made me appreciate the Jewish friends in my life and made me feel deeply connected to them.

As someone who grew up in a large Jewish community, This past year was my first time being with people who had never met a Jew before. I go to Point Park and it is harder to come to Hillel events since they are in Oakland, I had to find my own way to keep my Jewish Identity. Being known as the Jew on campus, made the first few weeks after the shooting especially difficult. People were always asking me questions which I appreciated but I also felt very isolated. I was scared, lonely, and trying to process it all.

This event happened a day before my birthday and I was just completely shocked that something like this would happen in Pittsburgh of all places. I was planning on attending this synagogue once I started at Pitt (I still am, there’s no way someone’s stupid enough to do something like that again in the same place) and it was just a huge tragedy to see people of my faith just absolutely slaughtered like that. I’ve read that this was one of the deadliest hate crimes in the country.

I feared for the lives of my Jewish friends and my friends living near the attack. The first thing I did when I heard was text all my Jewish friends and friends living in Squirrel Hill or Shadyside to make sure they were okay. Getting an “Active Shooter” alert is scary enough, to find out it’s a hate crime is an absolute nightmare.

Growing up here, you never expect these things to happen in your backyard. You never expect in Squirrel Hill- where families live and children play- that this horrific event will happen. And then it does. And suddenly your bubble of peace and happiness and safety from the harsh world is burst. After the shooting, I didn’t feel safe. Suddenly my happy little neighborhood wasn’t as peaceful as you recall. And you become paranoid, and anxious, and so many other feelings.

It struck me to my core. Shabbat is a sanctuary–waking up on Shabbat to the call that a temple had been attacked hurt and disturbed me on multiple levels. I was devastated, I was scared, I pleaded with God. It reminded me of the threats our community faces. But it also made me realize the strength of community. This event made me realize how important it is to come together, support each other, and love one another. I was struck by the healing power of community.

I was in shock. I grew up in Pittsburgh and never felt that sort of anxiety and frustration around an event/tragedy. I was in Holland Hall, so right in the Quad overlooking Fifth Ave where the ambulance sirens wailed by. I was somehow speechless but also wanting to pour my heart and thoughts out. My father’s house is 7 minutes away from Squirrel Hill and I have friends even closer. It could have happened there or even on Pitt’s campus. Despite being a Catholic and on Pitt’s campus, what happened really hit me.

It gave me a sense of panic and affinity for my peers unlike any I had before. I was genuinely fearful of my friends’ safety, so I grew a heightened sense of awareness when I had heard that the shooting occurred.

As a member of the Jewish community, I was deeply saddened and enraged by this attack. The amount of antisemitism that is present today in politics and in the community is disgusting to me. Being who I am, I feel scared to practice freely, and the reactions in politics do not help this fear.

Usually when there are shootings it always seems so far away and unreal that you know its sad, but you don’t experience those feelings as personally. Because this was so close to home, and my best friend’s brother who is a Pittsburgh cop, I felt like I actually felt the fear and desperation of those awful moments. Also, a woman in one of my classes belonged to the congregation, again making the event hit way too close to home.

As an active member of the Jewish community, I felt disappointed and scared. I started receiving texts from my friends (Jewish and non-Jewish) as if we were all doing a census of who is safe, and the idea of my friends being in this danger terrified me. I was suddenly thrown into mourning for my community and my campus. I never felt unsafe, if anything, the shooting made me realize that I was just as unsafe before that attack as after, that there will always be terrible people able to take lives.

As someone who identifies as Jewish, this tragedy was truly a culmination of the fear and anxieties I feel as a Jew in America. The fact that it was so close to homemade the fear and anxieties grow stronger as it felt more close to home.

I felt really scared because of the fact that it was so close to home and I know so many Jewish people.

This event was traumatic as I was deeply worried about my friends that lived in squirrel hill at that time. I was unsure if they were also in danger due to their faith as the synagogue was close by to their house. The event deeply saddened me because I couldn’t process how this could’ve happened in my university’s city.

Coming from a predominantly Jewish area before college, I could never fully grasp the extreme hatred and antisemitism that some people in this world feel. My mother had warned me before college that being Jewish can be dangerous. After the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue her words finally became true to me. I had never felt so proud, yet so terrified to be Jewish.

The day the event happened, I was glued to my tv. I couldn’t believe what was actually happening and I wanted more details. It was shocking to see the President tweet about it, and that’s when I knew this was so much more serious and impacting than I could have imagined. I got texts asking where I was, I texted friends asking where they were, and I couldn’t believe this was happening in Pittsburgh. In Squirrel Hill. As a country, we’ve become numb to mass shootings. I cried for our city and for the lives lost.

At first I was just very dismal, unsure of how to react or how to feel, which I guess came from confusion in understanding my connection to the shooting, the individuals involved, it’s context, etc. Afterwards I saw my emotions play out unexpectedly in simply performing daily tasks, participating in class, doing my work, etc. I felt the need to keep talking about the event and its repercussions with the concern that life cannot casually move on after a tragic incident like this one.

This was the first event of violent nature that I experienced physically near me. Growing up, I would read about these events on the news, but never was as affected as Tree of Life because they were in locations far away. I think knowing that something so precious can be taken from you so quickly was a big wake-up call for me.