Sarah Stultz: Synagogue mass shooting strikes at the heart

Published 10:00 pm Monday, October 29, 2018

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz


I spent some of the evening Sunday reading through stories about the lives of the 11 people killed in the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

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It was heartbreaking to hear of another mass shooting at a place of worship — places above all that I believe people should be able to feel safe in our country and in our world.

From what has been reported, shooting suspect Robert Bowers walked into the synagogue and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle and other weapons, killing eight men and three women before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him, according to the Associated Press, citing state and federal affidavits made public on Sunday. Six others were injured.

Among the people killed — who ranged in age from 54 to 97 — were a pair of brothers, a husband and a wife, a doctor and a retired accountant, to name a few — people who were dedicated to their faith and could be seen at the synagogue each week, according to those who knew them. They were devoted to their religion — and to their community.

I think back to some of the other church shootings that have happened in the last few years — one at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a shooter killed 26 people and wounded 20 others and one at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, when nine people were killed. Though these are the ones that stick out in my mind because of the sheer number of victims, there have been others as well.

It saddens me to see horrific acts of violence take place day after day in this country, and to have that violence be brought into places of worship takes that to a whole different level.

Can you imagine sitting in your church, synagogue, mosque or temple, worshipping according to the dictates of your own conscience, when unbeknownst to you, someone has walked into the building and begins unleashing shots into the congregation? Around you, others are screaming, some are falling to the ground and you are seeing something play out in front of your own eyes that no one should ever have to witness.

It does not matter whether we are Jewish, Christian, Muslim or of no religion at all — when incidents like what happened Saturday in Pittsburg take place, they strike at the core of what it means to be an American.

While I still believe there are more good people in this world than bad, it sometimes gets challenging to see hate in the spotlight.

What can be done to change this? I feel like I have been writing about this a lot lately, but we have to be kind to those around us. We have to teach our children to be kind, and we have to show them this behavior in the way we, ourselves, act.

Can we disagree with others? Without a doubt. But, we can disagree without violence, without hatred and without harsh words.

Whether it’s religion, backgrounds, education or political views, the same applies.

As Stephen Covey once said, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.