A heartwarming scene emerged Sunday near the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh where a gunman opened fire killing 11 people as a mother and her two children held up homemade signs thanking police, firefighters and paramedics who responded to the horrific mass shooting.
“We are obviously so grateful that it wasn’t any more tragic than it already was. And that’s because of our first-responders,” Pittsburgh resident Molly Butler told Global News. “We are so lucky and so grateful.”
“The kids heard the sirens at our synagogue down the block and we just told them ‘that’s the sound of people saving your life.”
Six-year-old Lily Butler and her brother held signs that read: “Thank you for keeping the Jews in my neighbourhood safe.”
Butler said she and her kids were at a separate synagogue near where the tragedy occurred that went into lockdown once the shooting started.
“There are terrible hateful people everywhere but we are lucky we live in a place where police care about us and they come right away,” Butler told Global News.
Police have identified Robert Gregory Bowers, 46, as the gunman who killed eight men and three women inside the Tree of Life Synagogue during worship services Saturday. Authorities have said Bowers used an AR-15 rifle and three handguns in the attack, which also injured several police officers.
State and federal affidavits show that Bowers told an officer while he was being treated for his injuries “that he wanted all Jews to die and also that they (Jews) were committing genocide to his people.”
Bowers was charged with 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation in what Mayor Bill Peduto called it the “darkest day of Pittsburgh’s history.”
“To the victims’ families, to the victims’ friends, we’re here as a community of one for you,” Peduto said. “We will be here to help you through this horrific episode. We’ll get through this darkest day of Pittsburgh’s history by working together.”
He was also charged with several counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death — a federal hate crime — and using a firearm to commit murder.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the charges “could lead to the death penalty.”
For Butler she is still trying to grasp the senseless killings in what she called a “loving and respectful” community.
“We know a lot of the victims and it’s just sad and awful,” she said. “How could he do such a thing?”