Since 2000, Pittsburgh has topped the list of most livable cities six times. I, along with many others believe this is due to the friendly nature of our various neighborhoods, our embracing of diversity and the rich academic, corporate and cultural life in the region.
On October 27, 2018, however, Pittsburgh also joined the list of cities whose residents believed that “this could never happen here.” It was on that day that 11 individuals were killed in an act of unthinkable anti-Semitic violence, the worst in American history. We were shaken to our core and communities across the country and abroad were watching and sending their love and support. Since that day, hundreds more have lost their lives in violent hate crimes.
One might reasonably wonder why I am making direct reference to the events of October 27, 2018, and other crimes of hate now. The answer is twofold. First, so much more than a hateful act happened on that day. The outpouring of support, kindness and love was overwhelming. Individuals, agencies and organizations came together and worked together. We individually and collectively longed to support the family members, those present and injured, present and uninjured, members of the three congregations, first responders, the Squirrel Hill community and the city of Pittsburgh. We stood together in support of the diversity and friendliness that makes us a most livable city. We stood against those people and beliefs that attempt to tear us apart. That day we became activists and involved community members in ways not seen in recent history in our city.
Second, in this time of pandemic, hate appears to be increasing. We see daily reminders in the media of people engaging in violent, anti-Asian American, anti-Semitic, anti-mask wearing and anti-physical distancing acts. On October 27, 2018, and since, we have stood against hate with kindness, compassion and inclusion. We are called to do the same now.
During this time of COVID-19, we are once again given an opportunity to remind ourselves and others what we do have control of. We are called to action in a different way. We control whether we participate in large gatherings. We have control over practicing physical distancing. We control whether we wear masks, whether to protect ourselves and others. We control whether we make an effort to stay reasonably and accurately informed and we control whether we will be good stewards of what is available to us and how we choose to take care of each other. We are called and have a choice about being people of reason and thought, as well as kindness and compassion. The events of October 27, 2018 taught us that as a city we know how to do this.
People’s angst, anxiety and anger are understandable. This community is well acquainted with these feelings. We are also familiar with life supporting and affirming responses. Now – similar to how we felt on October 27, 2018 – we don’t know what will happen next, when we can reestablish a “new normal,” who we will see again and when. Let us individually and collectively show and continue to learn and demonstrate for others what it looks like to find and be a voice of kindness and reason, to speak in a timely manner in the face of hate and violence and to model for the world what true compassion looks like. PJC
Cindy Snyder is the clinical director of the 10.27 Healing Partnership.