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Pittsburgh Mourns Following Deadly Attack On Area Synagogue

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Pittsburgh is in mourning after Saturday's attack on the Tree of Life synagogue. Eleven worshippers were killed. Six other people, including police officers, were injured. Today, the victims' bodies were released to family, and the suspect made his first appearance in federal court in a wheelchair and handcuffs. Margaret J. Krauss of member station WESA is at Carnegie Mellon University where a vigil has just wrapped up. Hi, Margaret.

MARGARET J KRAUSS, BYLINE: Hello.

SHAPIRO: Describe the vigil for us.

KRAUSS: It ended just a little while ago. The auditorium is in the university center, and people of different faiths and backgrounds filled the room to capacity. Security officers were actually trying to turn people away, but they just stood outside the doors anyway. Rabbi Jamie Gibson is the senior rabbi at Temple Sinai. And he said there's a lot of reason to be afraid and that fear can be paralyzing.

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JAMIE GIBSON: And the only thing that will help us move forward is to remember that the ikar, the most important thing, is lo lefached klal - do not give in to the fear. Do not be afraid. Move forward arm in arm.

SHAPIRO: What have the people you've spoken to said about how they expect to move forward, what they see in the days ahead?

KRAUSS: There was a lot of talk about leaning on each other, about grieving being both a personal and a communal process. Speakers who took the stage tonight urged people to seek out others to talk about how they're feeling and not to shut it down and that it will take time. Alan Menaged is a Carnegie Mellon student. He says when he moved here, Pittsburgh's Jewish community opened him - welcomed him with open arms. And he said it's difficult to think that that same community has absorbed so much horror.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALAN MENAGED: But I know that our neighborhood is not welcoming to hatred and intolerance. This is not who we are. Together, we will be galvanized like steel and come out strong.

KRAUSS: And that was - the whole room stood for a moment of silence - I wish we could play the silence because it was moving, but that'd be weird - and said the Kaddish. Rabbi Jamie Gibson told the crowd that while the Kaddish, the prayer, is often said in times of death, there's no mention of death in the prayer. It's about faith. And that - that's what I heard people expressing tonight, is a faith that hate can be overcome, that Pittsburgh can be better and stronger.

SHAPIRO: President Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, are scheduled to visit Pittsburgh tomorrow. What have people you've talked to said about what they want to hear from the president and what they expect from that visit?

KRAUSS: So far it's not clear, the people that I've spoken with, what they would expect or want the president to say. It's been a mixed response in terms of thinking about their visit tomorrow. Mayor - our mayor, Bill Peduto, told reporters earlier that he hoped the president would not visit while we were burying our dead, specifically that he - the city doesn't have enough public safety personnel to provide protection to the funerals that will start tomorrow and to the president's visit. So it still seems like a pretty mixed bag in terms of what people are feeling.

SHAPIRO: When you leave the scene of the vigil or the neighborhood of the synagogue, does the entire city feel changed, on edge in mourning? What's it like around Pittsburgh today?

KRAUSS: I can't speak for the whole city, but people seem to be very warm with each other, opening. There's been a lot of discussion of course in social media about, I'm here for you. Please reach out. We as a city, we as a neighborhood, we as a Jewish community or otherwise are prepared to help one another to move beyond this. And it's - I don't know. I don't think I'm imagining it, but I think everyone's aware that there's a lot of pain right now.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Margaret J. Krauss of member station WESA in Pittsburgh. Thanks so much.

KRAUSS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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