Recovering from Violence – Our Sympathies to the Tree of Life Synagogue

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Charleston, South CarolinaSenator Bob Casey Tweet

More than three years have passed since a gunman entered Mother Emanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina and fatally shot nine worshipers attending a Bible study group. In the years following the tragedy, the victims are remembered through events like Victory Valley and a proposed memorial. Although the days continue, the tragedy that took place on June 17, 2015 changed the lives of many in the Holy City.

Sutherland Springs, Texas

Less than a year ago a gunman entered the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and killed 26. Framed obituaries and stuffed animals are now part of the Sutherland Springs Historical Museum to remember the victims. The days continue, but the lives of many were changed on November 2, 2017.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Today, the Nation mourns the lives of 11 congregants who were fatally shot on Saturday, October 27th at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Key employees and co-workers, best friends and parents, neighbors and caregivers – 11 empty seats next to someone who is used to having that person there. Lives were changed on October 27, 2018.

The senseless attacks in Charleston and Sutherland Springs are mirrored in that experienced by the community of Pittsburgh.

‘The Darkest Hour’

During an interfaith memorial service the day after the shooting, a crowd of more than 2,500 gathered at the University of Pittsburgh’s Soldiers and Sailors Hall.

The “Stronger Together” service opened with a performance by a Baptist gospel choir and included remarks by Christian and Muslim clergy, but it was largely led by [Rabbi Jeffrey] Meyers and two fellow rabbis representing the three Jewish congregations who used the synagogue targeted in Saturday’s carnage.

“This is the darkest hour in our city’s history,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto declared during Sunday’s service.

“But here’s another thing about Pittsburgh. We are resilient. We will work together as one. We will defeat hate with love. We will be a city of compassion and we will be welcoming to all people,” he said to cheers. – Reuters

The reactions and responses of community leaders, the families of victims and others in the first hours and early days after a shooting of this magnitude, are critical to the long-term consequences and resiliency of the community, the businesses and business organizations in the community, and the people affected.

Charleston had tremendous leadership following the 2015 attack, and for that, so many are deeply thankful. It is also sadly a reflection of what has been learned through each of these tragedies that allows communities and their leadership to understand that in the face of grief, critical decisions must still be made, and be made wisely based upon what has been learned from like-tragedy.

After a Tragedy: Stop and Breathe

Immediately following a tragedy is not the time to develop and improve a crisis plan. First and foremost, console those impacted by the event.

Community impacts in the wake of such an event are immeasurable at the outset. To begin to understand, one must appreciate that every life lost is someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, sister or brother, friend, co-worker, relative. Someone with a name. An identity. A history. The world of their survivors has been turned upside down and nothing will ever look, feel or be the same –ever again.

Focusing on people and their immediate needs in the wake of any crisis should be the highest priority of any organization or community involved in a tragedy. Communities coming together, providing support, holding memorials, finding ways to honor the victims, all serve to comfort those who are grieving, and help ensure that the community will be defined by their resilience, not the senseless tragedy. The time will come later to talk about lessons learned and steps that can be taken to reduce risk or prevent bad acts in the future.

It is common to see rapid actions taken by leadership within communities and organizations to address those factors that are believed to have contributed to or failed to prevent the horrific events. This is understandable. People by their very nature want to do something to help ease the pain of those impacted. Unfortunately, precipitous actions are often ill advised, not well thought out, and can even compound the grief.

So as we say in the wake of every crisis. STOP. Take a deep breath. Console the victims. Then develop a well thought out plan that will bring about the type of lasting change, change that will become part of the fabric of your community. Most importantly, involve those most impacted as you develop strategies and solutions. They will bring the passion and commitment needed to bring about meaningful change. They do this to honor their loved ones. They need to know that the life they lost mattered. Because it did.

– Suzy Loughlin, Firestorm Co-Founder

Our Thoughts

Having responded to the shootings at Virginia Tech, we at Firestorm understand and commend the significant and heroic efforts extended by the police, first responder community, hospital staff, and every day citizens who respond to these and like tragedies.

Everyone at Firestorm expresses their deepest sympathies to all who have lost loved ones, friends, and employees as a result of these senseless tragedies. We also wish the best for all those currently in recovery.

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