Community Issues

Overcoming Adversity: Parkland Group Visits Pittsburgh

Weekend of service reminds victims and supporters that love is stronger than hate.

A weekend of helping and healing came to a close Sunday night, as nearly 350 people gathered at the Jewish Community Center in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood for "Parkland to Pittsburgh: Stronger Than Hate." The town hall style discussion capped a three-day visit to Pittsburgh by a delegation from Parkland Florida where a gunman claimed the lives of 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018. The visit was organized by the JCC's Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement.

It brought together the Parkland community with those affected by the massacre at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue last October that killed 11 worshipers. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that survivor Daniel Leger was on the town hall panel and spoke publicly for the first time about that terrible day. "I remember after I was shot, lying on the steps, a feeling of real peace that I have been blessed with a wonderful life and I'm dying," he said. Leger told the group he grabbed the leg of a passing first responder who realized he was still alive.

Sunday's town hall meeting was recorded and will be broadcast on WTAE-TV Tuesday evening. Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh Facebook page

While they were in Pittsburgh, the Stoneman Douglas students group met with students at Taylor Allderdice High School to share strategies for student activism in the wake of a mass shooting. They attended a memorial at Tree of Life, then visited the City-County Building Downtown and had a three-hour meeting with Mayor Bill Peduto. "Every person that's around this table has decided to do something positive out of something so terribly negative," he was quoted in the Post Gazette .

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (head of table, left) spent three hours with the delegation. Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh Facebook page

There was private time during the visit for victims of both tragedies to meet privately.

Survivors and families shared thoughts and feelings only another person who has experienced what they've been through could understand. Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh Facebook page

There was also time to share moments of fun and friendship. The group attended Saturday's Pirates game, where they were recognized on the field and applauded by fans.

Delegation members were recognized at Saturday's Pirates game at PNC Park. Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh Facebook page

Sunday's town hall "Parkland to Pittsburgh: Stronger Than Hate" was recorded and will air at 8 p.m. Tuesday on WTAE-TV.

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