Victims Of Tree Of Life Shooting Remembered During Rally For Peace And Unity

Actors Michael Keaton and Tom Hanks spoke during the rally at Point State Park

Joe DeStio
November 09, 2018 - 1:19 pm

Joe DeStio

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PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) – Pittsburgh’s Rally for Peace and Unity at Point State Park Friday afternoon honored the 11 victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill and the 12 victims of the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting in Thousand Oaks, California.

A stage set up near the fountain was surrounded by hundreds of people holding umbrellas as a steady rain fell. Those in attendance honored the victims with a minute of silence and continued to stand in silence as the names of the 11 Tree of Life victims were read aloud by actor and Pittsburgh native, Michael Keaton.

Rabbis from all three congregations whose members were meeting in the Tree of Life synagogue building at the time of the shooting nearly two weeks ago attended the event.

Senator Bob Casey spoke of the first responders and their heroics.

Keaton told the crowd he felt helpless when he heard the news and said that “Pittsburgh is the quintessential immigrant city”.

Keaton added that what he saw on his television in the days after the shooting was the “elegance and grace” of the city and that anytime someone asks him where they should visit in America, he tells them they need to go to Pittsburgh.

“If you want to see a city that is far, far much stronger than hate, you should go to Pittsburgh. If you want to see a city that is tolerant, accepting and inclusive and compassionate, you should go to Pittsburgh,” said Keaton. “If you want to bring hate, racism, prejudice, anti-Semitism, division, you can go to hell, but if you want to see a real city in the greatest country, that is currently the greatest country, always was, not again, always was, always will be in America, you should go to Pittsburgh.”

Joe DeStio

Related: Stronger Than Hate Shirts To Benefit Victims

Jeff Finkelstein President of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh thanked the city for standing with the Jewish community after the shooting.

“In the Jewish community we often declare ‘We are one’. Well Pittsburgh, we are one,” said Finkelstein.

Finkelstein also said their hearts go out to the victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting.

Actor Tom Hanks, who was in Pittsburgh earlier this fall filming a movie about Mr. Rogers, spoke on stage with Rogers’ widow Joanne Rogers by his side.

“The people of Pittsburgh live in good neighborhoods that do not divide the city but define it,” said Hanks. “A visitor here will learn about the unbreakable bond shared by all who wear the black and the gold.”

Before the Taylor Allderdice choir came on stage to sing the Mister Rogers’ Theme song “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Joanne Rogers said “Let us replace guns with hugs”

Roberto Clemente Jr. son of the late Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente spoke about how important Pittsburgh and Squirrel Hill has been to him and his family.

Former Pirates, Steelers and Penguins also spoke including Franco Harris and Brett Keisel.

Pittsburgh Police officers injured during the attack Daniel Mead, Michael Smidga, Tyler Pashel were honored on stage. Officers Anthony Burke, Timothy Matson and John Persin were also honored but not in attendance.

Joe DeStio

Governor Tom Wolf, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Bill Peduto also spoke during the rally.

Mayor Peduto called for change during the rally, possibly referring to gun legislation.

Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers thanked first responders for saving his life. He asked people to remove the word "hate" from their vocabulary.

Islamic Center of Pittsburgh Executive Director Wasi Mohamed called for unity.

The shooting was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

A 46-year-old man who is accused of the shooting rampage has pleaded not guilty to federal charges.

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