Our Wake Up Call

I write this less than twenty-four hours after a synagogue up the street from my house became the target of hatred. I write this in the dark at my kitchen counter, a half-mile from where my neighbors were hosed down by gunfire, simply because of their faith. I write this as my family sleeps, knowing that when they wake up and we read this morning’s newspaper, one of the seven of us will likely know someone who died yesterday at a blessed ceremony to give a newborn baby his or her name. I write this as a candle flickers in front of me, dancing in the dark as if it to challenge me to see the light.

At least it was raining.

The sun never came out yesterday. And it shouldn’t have. The fog and low-lying clouds were the physical of the emotional we all felt. I watched a friend report live across the street from the synagogue, just a few homes up from his house, and he was in shock. The words coming out of his mouth didn’t make sense. But I understood them. I felt the same way in 2016 when six family members were killed by hatred at a backyard barbecue. Their deaths, again, taking place about a half-mile from where I sat.

It’s too close. It’s just always too damn close.

Jack is the one who told me. My sixteen year old had the same expression on his face the day his little brother was hit by a car on their way to school. The same expression I saw as I raced to the scene to find him cradling Christopher’s bloody body as rain poured down on them. The same face Jack had when he told me our neighbor, rapper Mac Miller, had died. The same face he had when he told me a former classmate of his had crashed his car and was terribly burned when the engine exploded. The same face when he learned that my aunt had finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer. 

I never want to see that face again.

There is indescribable suffering in our world.

There is simply no more time to hate.

I drove my family in a fog to a birthday luncheon yesterday. My sister-in-law’s grandmother was turning 100. We were to celebrate. And we tried. But the whispers of disbelief and sorrow created a hum all around us. “What do you expect with a President who hates so much?” a woman I like very much said to me. And that’s when it hit me.

(My family with Grandma Jo. Christopher has a "100th" sticker on his forehead from the candy bags left at each person's seat.) 

We are truly divided.

Of all times to unite, her words sliced through the din like a knife. Hatred is winning over love.


(Ryan loves babies, and his little cousin, Fionn, is no exception.)

Righting this sinking ship called America is up to you. It’s up to me. It’s up to US. And it doesn’t begin until we stop pointing fingers, finding blame, and hating people who are different than we. Who have different beliefs. Different backgrounds. Different skin or a different faith.


(My sister-in-law, Tracey, celebrating her grandmother's 100th birthday.)

This is it. The time is now.

As I rocked my sister-in-law’s baby in my arms yesterday, I almost envied her grandmother's one hundred years. She may well live several more, sure. But she won’t hear about these horrors. I kissed my nephew’s head and breathed in his sweetness, saying a silent prayer for him and all our children that the grown ups in this world start acting like it before it’s too late.


(Having my nephew, Fionn, fall asleep in my arms reminded me of our many blessings...)




  • I do not understand how you can compare what happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue with the barbeque massacre in Wikinsburg. The synagogue shooter is a deranged individual who hates people of the Jewish faith and set out Saturday morning to kill as many Jews as he could. He did not know who his victims would be.The individuals who murdered the family in Wilkinsburg are criminals who committed those murders as an act of vengeance and retaliation against one of the family members attending that barbeque. Those men knew who they were going to kill. The man, who survived that shooting, was a known criminal, drug dealer and gang banger. His family, who I am sure knew where he got his money, and most likely profited from his crimes, got caught up in the act of vengeance. Almost like a Mafia family killing. Those people died because of gang-related and crime-related activity. It is sad, but it happens every day. They chose to associate with a family member who was a known criminal and who was known to have criminal type enemies. The people who were shot at the Tree of Life Synagogue were innocent victims, just going about their lives, participating in a weekly worship service when they were randomly killed by a madman. Two totally different crimes.

    Susan Schmeichel
  • It was, indeed, a sad day in the ‘Burgh and around the country. I attended a memorial gathering at my synagogue today, along with over 300 others. My rabbi was born and raised in Monroeville. She wasn’t there- she is on a mission to Israel- but I thought of her the minute this horrible news broke. I also thought of you and how you enjoyed the message I sent you last year. Squirrel Hill is exactly like my home town of Brookline. We stand with you because we know you are Pittsburgh Strong. Thank you for reading. -Jonathan Cohen, Brookline, MA
    Jonathan Cohen

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