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Pittsburgh Mayor Responds To His City's Tragic Shooting


We're here because yesterday, 11 people were killed after a gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue in the historic Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Today, the city and indeed the country and many around the world are in mourning and trying to make sense of what happened here. Throughout this program, we will be sharing what we know about the attack, and we will be hearing from members of the community who were directly affected by the tragedy. And we'll hear from people who were far away but still felt the need to respond. But we're going to start the program with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for talking with us.

BILL PEDUTO: It's my pleasure.

MARTIN: And, of course, I want to offer my deepest condolences to you and to members of the city and the community. And you've just lost 11 people. And how are you holding up? And how is the city holding up?

PEDUTO: It's difficult. Our hearts are broken collectively in Pittsburgh. This community is small. Pittsburgh's a small city, and what happens to one part of it affects all of us.

MARTIN: We've asked a number of people to describe this community to us, and I'd like you to describe it to us. What is Squirrel Hill all about?

PEDUTO: Well, it's - I live five blocks from where the event took place. It's the most diverse neighborhood in all of Western Pennsylvania, and it's a very tight-knit community. It is the historic base of Pittsburgh's Jewish community for over 100 years.

MARTIN: Unfortunately, events like this are no longer rare in American life.


MARTIN: And I wondered, when you have seen other communities face something like this, has it been running through your mind - like, what would I do in this situation? I mean, as you first got the calls, as the first calls were coming in that this was - this event was taking place, I find myself wondering, like, what were you thinking? And had you thought to yourself that you would have to face something like this?

PEDUTO: So I have a strategy with my chief of staff on weekends. If he calls, I may not pick up on the first time, but if he ever calls back two times, I'll know that it is something that is a crisis. It was the first time he's ever had to do that. And, during that period, I realized that something was very, very wrong. Within five minutes, he was at my house, and we were on the scene within five minutes of that.

So, looking at different cities - of course, mayors always try to learn from other cities. And one of the examples is I had the opportunity to talk to Mayor Walsh today - was Boston and the Boston Marathon - and trying to realize how to get not only the strategy of the police and public safety but also communications.

MARTIN: And, you know, obviously this is early days, and you're still dealing with the immediate, you know, aftermath, and there are many - there are going to be some really difficult days ahead when you think about where you would like to take the community going forward. Are there some specific things you think about Pittsburgh, about this community, that will help it move forward? What do you think those things might be?

PEDUTO: Well, I'm thinking about first and foremost to take care of the victims' families to make sure that they have everything that they possibly could need. Also, taking care of those that have been wounded - both our police officers and the members of the congregation who have been wounded as well. That is the primary concern. Pittsburghers are good at taking care of one another. Going beyond that, the first area is allowing and making sure that the Jewish community is safe and then working with the leaders of our Jewish community to deal with the perception of safety as well - things like having police present at the day schools and having police vehicles around the synagogues so that day to day normal activity in life will be able to resume.

MARTIN: And, finally, you noted that you have been hearing from your colleagues all over the world. You know, we've been here in the city, and we see that this has resonance, you know, far beyond this neighborhood, certainly far beyond even the city. And I just - I wonder - I don't really have a really good question for you. I just wonder if there's something that you could do with that...

PEDUTO: No, I understand exactly what you're saying.

MARTIN: Is there something...

PEDUTO: I think there's two takeaways in that. Number one is, there are levels of evil. Evil manifests itself in a multiple homicide. And, certainly, seeing 11 people's lives being taken from them is definitely something that is felt strongly by a lot of people. But it also is when those people are being murdered simply because of the way that they pray. And then it takes on a different level when you prey on the elderly or you prey upon children. And then it takes another level when you go into a place that is sacred to those people, and a place that is considered a safe haven becomes a mass graveyard. And when all of those different levels of evil are open, there is a natural reaction for people to want to reach out and to try to help other people.

But there's a secondary level as well because all of the rhetoric and the talk about how we're different, all of the notions of how we should not welcome people, or if people are different and Americans are different - there is an underlying tone around this world of enough is enough. And this level of hatred has to end.

MARTIN: That's Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for talking to us.

PEDUTO: Thanks. Have a great day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.