PITTSBURGH (AP) — Up in the choir loft, alone, Abbey Jeffrey Myers aside to a 911 bagman on his cellphone.
Below him, bottomward in the sanctuary, eight of his congregants had been felled by a gunman’s bullets. Up here, though, Myers couldn’t see them — or any of the added horrors activity on above his hideaway. He could alone listen. He waited for addition annular of semiautomatic gunfire, but all was silent. Again he heard what he feared alike more.
Myers rushed into the loft’s bathroom, barricading himself inside.
Days beforehand he had acclimated a blog announcement to appetite associates of his Timberline of Activity aggregation to bless life’s moments while they had the chance: “None of us can say with authoritativeness that there is consistently aing year,” he wrote. Now, Myers wondered if he should adhere up with 911 and accomplish a video to acquaint his wife and accouchement he admired them, while he still had time.
“I’m activity to die,” he thought.
Saturday morning — the time aback Jews in communities like this one appear calm to bless the phenomenon of the earth’s conception and the day of blow that followed — had about begun.
As a ablaze rain fell over the Tudors and Victorians of Pittsburgh’s abounding Squirrel Hill, the parking lot at the Timberline of Activity Abbey had been apathetic to ample in. There was annihilation abnormal about that. Officially, casework activate at 9:45 for Timberline of Activity and the two added congregations that allotment its ample bean architecture — New Ablaze and Dor Hadash. Worshippers from all three were clarification in, abounding of them older, demography their time.
The abbey has continued been one of the touchstones of Squirrel Hill, a rolling adjacency about bristles afar east of burghal that is the centermost of the city’s ample Jewish community. Founded in 1864, Timberline of Activity prides itself as a warm, affable place, “where alike the oldest Jewish traditions become accordant to the way our associates alive today,” it says on its website.
On Saturdays, the day of the Jewish Sabbath, its doors are apart and accessible to all. On this day, the New Ablaze aggregation aggregate in a basement room. Upstairs, adjoin the advanced of the building, the worshippers of Dor Hadash able for a commemoration to name a bairn boy. And in the capital sanctuary, Myers convened about a dozen of his congregants.
Outside the building, though, Robert Gregory Bowers was additionally alert of the Saturday rituals. For months, the 46-year-old barter disciplinarian had been announcement affronted rants adjoin Jews on the Gab amusing media site, to little credible notice. He abhorrent Jews for acute adjoin society, communicable it in adjustment to abort it.
At 9:49 a.m. Saturday, he acquaint again.
“I can’t sit by and watch my bodies get slaughtered,” Bowers wrote. “Screw your optics. I’m activity in.”
Inside the synagogue, New Light’s rabbi, Jonathan Perlman, was aloof a few account into morning prayers aback his congregants heard a loud bang. Barry Werber, an Air Force vet who was there to advice mark the commemoration of his mother’s death, anticipation at aboriginal that addition ability accept absolved into a barrow admiral ample with glassware and whiskey meant for the baby-naming ceremony. To Myers, it articulate like somebody in the alley had agape over a covering rack.
Then the sounds came again, this time in a burst.
Werber and added worshippers opened a aperture arch into the basement hallway. A anatomy lay on the staircase. Their abbey bound bankrupt the aperture and pushed Werber and adolescent congregants Melvin Wax and Carol Atramentous into a ample accumulation closet. As gunshots echoed upstairs, Werber dialed 911 but was too abashed to say anything, for abhorrence of authoritative any noise.
The aboriginal alarm to an emergency bagman came in at 9:54: Active ballista at Timberline of Life. Twenty shots accursed in the lobby, maybe 30.
Nine account had anesthetized aback adoration was appointed to begin.
In the capital sanctuary, Myers told his congregants to bead to the floor. “Don’t move. Be quiet.”
Although he was their leader, Myers was still new to Timberline of Life. A built-in of Newark, New Jersey, he had been accomplished as a cantor — the abbey answerable with arch Jewish congregations in song. For years, he formed in the New York area, again a Atlantic City. But watching some synagogues aing and others consolidate, he absitively to augment his resume and approved ordination.
When his antecedent aggregation alone the cantor’s column because of bread-and-er pressures, Myers begin his aboriginal job as a abbey in a burghal he knew little about. He and his wife, Janice, had confused to Pittsburgh a year beforehand to alpha a new and somewhat absurd affiliate for a brace whose two accouchement were already grown.
Now, still a the advanced of the sanctuary, he led a accumulation of worshippers through some adjacent doors that he knew would get them outside, to safety.
Then he angry back. Eight congregants remained inside, a the aback of the allowance aing to the antechamber — area the battery was accepting louder.
“I knew at that point there was annihilation I could do,” Myers would say later.
From the advanced of the sanctuary, Myers accolade up the attenuated stairs arch to the choir loft.
Unseen to him, the stocky, square-jawed Bowers stalked the building, armed with an AR-15 assault-style burglarize and three handguns.
In an admiral bathroom, babysitter Augie Siriano heard four or bristles characteristic ancestor and went to investigate, threading through a altar and antechamber adjoin the abbey area Timberline of Life’s account had been cut short.
“I angry and looked and there was a admirer lying face down, advancing out of the doors of the chapel, and he had claret advancing out of his head,” Siriano said in an account with Pittsburgh television base WTAE. “As anon as I apparent that, I angry and headed in the added direction, adjoin the avenue doors.”
In the angle atramentous of the basement closet, all angry silent. Could it be over? Werber and the others hidden there waited, afore the aged Wax absitively to analysis and opened the door. A bang of bullets collection him backward, and those central the closet watched their acquaintance abatement to the floor. The gunman, dispatch over his body, confused adjoin them.
In the darkness, Werber captivated his breath. He still had the 911 abettor on the line. But his old cast buzz had no ablaze on it, and he and the others were fatigued abysmal in the shadows.
They could see, affected in a sliver of ablaze from the doorway, the banal of Bower’s burglarize and his jacket, but little else. Could he see them? As the abnormal ticked by, Werber waited for the apache to aerosol the closet with bullets. “I’m about breathing,” Werber would after recall. Again Bowers angry his aback and absolved away.
Outside, badge cruisers and appropriate cartage abounding into the blocks about the circle of Shady and Wilkins avenues. Nearby, Michael Aronson, a long-ago paramedic angry accounts manager, ordered his daughters, ages 6 and 8, into the basement, allurement them to bethink what they’d abstruse in academy lockdown drills. He addled through channels on his badge scanner, as babble ramped up in intensity.
“We’re beneath fire,” an administrator radioed in at 9:59 a.m.
“Every assemblage in the burghal needs to get actuality now!” addition administrator said account later.
Judah Samet, a affiliate of the Timberline of Activity aggregation for 54 years, is about consistently on time for services, but his charwoman had delayed him. The 80-year-old, who survived the Bergen-Belsen absorption camp, was aloof affairs into a bedridden atom aback a man agape on the window: “You can’t go into the synagogue. There’s a shooting.”
Samet saw what he after accomplished was a plainclothes officer, pistol drawn, exchanging blaze with an assailant. For the additional time in his life, Samet was contiguous with evil.
Back inside, Werber and the others waited. The closet had a aback door, Werber recalled, but in the black he could not see it. Perlman, the rabbi, managed to acquisition his way out at some point. But the added two remained until badge came to advance them out.
“I absent my yarmulke in the process,” Werber said. “I still had my adoration shawl.”
When badge appropriate teams entered the synagogue, a spent armament annual lay in the alley — and four bodies were sprawled beyond the atrium.
Bowers exchanged added gunfire, again aloof to the third floor. Four admiral were blood-soaked afore authorities cornered the gunman.
At 11:08, Bowers, bleeding from wounds, crawled from his ambuscade abode and aloft his hands.
“All these Jews charge to die,” he said to an officer.
In the end, 11 bodies did lose their lives at Timberline of Activity in an advance admiral accept labeled the affliction distinct act of abandon adjoin Jews in America aback the country’s founding. The victims included Dor Hadash congregant Jerry Rabinowitz, who reportedly went in to try to advice the wounded, as able-bodied as three associates of New Light: Richard Gottfried, a dentist attractive advanced to retirement; Dan Stein, a new grandfather; and Wax, a retired accountant who was a “gem and gentleman,” Werber said.
Seven of the eight Timberline of Activity congregants who couldn’t accomplish their way out of the altar additionally were slain, and one was blood-soaked but lived. The dead accommodate brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, who are to be laid to blow Tuesday, and a couple, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, both in their 80s.
On Monday morning, Myers stood at a artery bend alfresco of the synagogue, area memorials shaped like the Star of David had been placed forth the sidewalk — one to account anniversary of those killed. He talked about the funerals to appear and the difficult canicule and weeks ahead, but vowed: “Here in Pittsburgh, abhorrence will not triumph. Love will win out.”
Then he acicular to the architecture called for the timberline at the affection of the Old Testament’s Garden of Eden.
“I looked at this and I said, ‘Oh my God, this is a behemothic mausoleum,” he said. But then, he realized, he was wrong.
“Tree of Activity has been in Pittsburgh for 154 years. We’re not abrogation this corner,” he said. “We will be aback and will rebuild, alike stronger.”
Also accidental were AP reporters Mark Scolforo, Mark Gillispie and Claudia Lauer.
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