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I love Pittsburgh.  There I said it.  My friends may not think I’m being honest here because I complain so much about the weather.  And the cult-like devotion to the Steelers. And the cronyism in the political realm that has held back the city in many ways.

But in light of the horrific, unspeakable tragedy at Tree of Life Synagogue, I have watched our city do what it does best.  Come together and show the rest of the world what tolerance and acceptance looks like.  To show the Spirit of Pittsburgh.

Watching speaker after speaker at last night’s memorial filled me with anger and sadness, but more importantly – hope.  To see the head of the Islamic Center announce the fundraising effort (that at last word was more than 100K) for the victims told me everything I already knew about my city.

We don’t hate.  Unless it comes to the Washington Capitals or the gray skies – and that’s really all in fun, right?

We live in neighborhoods with people of all faiths, races and ethnicities.  My wife grew up on Hastings Street just blocks away from Tree of Life.  Her Greek parents were part of a neighborhood of people from every faith and nationality you could imagine.  Squirrel Hill is her hometown and this tragedy struck way too close to home.  Our early days of dating and marriage were spent at the many restaurants in Squirrel Hill, the sidewalks of Shadyside and her parent’s front porch and back yard on Hastings.

Maybe everyone feels this way about their hometown, but despite its flaws, I wouldn’t have wanted to raise my kids anywhere else.  They both had the experience of the city during their daycare and pre-school days and while we moved to the suburbs, we aren’t stuck in the Wexford bubble as we have ventured to the city often throughout their young lives.  There is nothing like the Strip District on a Saturday morning.  Nothing.

My oldest – in a surprise – chose Pitt as her college – and is falling in love with city life the way I did 100 years ago when I first arrived in Oakland.  And because we are in Pittsburgh, I think that the community of Pitt students adopts that same mentality of closeness – then and now – that is reflected in the neighborhoods from the South Side to Oakland to Squirrel Hill and extends even into the suburbs.

Evil and hate have visited Pittsburgh.  But we can’t let it linger.  It is truly up to each and every resident of this city – of this region – of this country – to start practicing love.

I vividly remember the time in our country right after 9-11. I remember people standing in long lines at airport security – either quietly waiting or chatting with one another.  I remember friendly nods and eye contact as I got on a plane for months afterward.  But it didn’t last as the last time I flew there was grumbling in line and zero eye contact.

Pittsburgh has been a leader in so many ways over the centuries.  From its steel-town roots to today’s education, medical and technology innovations.  I have no doubt that my city will be a leader again today – and this time the subject is love, tolerance and acceptance.

 

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