On Saturday, the Jewish community in Pittsburgh was rocked when 46-year-old Robert Gregory Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue during a Shabbat morning service with an AR-15 rifle and yelled “All Jews must die!” before opening fire on the approximately 80 people in the congregation.
By the time the police entered the building and were able to arrest Bowers, 11 people were dead, with another nine, including four police officers, wounded in the shootout. Bowers has since appeared in court on Monday, where, according to the New York Post, two of the survivors were in court to watch the proceedings.
Husband and wife Jean Clickner and Jon Pushinsky, who have been members of the Tree of Life synagogue for decades, decided they wanted to attend the arraignment so that they could represent their community and be a voice for those who were killed, especially as they had lost close friends in the shooting.
But watching as Bowers was charged with 29 federal crimes and 36 state crimes, Clickner and Pushinsky found the man to be “underwhelming.”
“He just looked like a man,” Clickner said. “You expected the devil.”
Her husband added that he hadn’t felt anything looking at the man who had carried out such an awful act of terror.
“It was underwhelming. I didn’t know what to expect, but when someone commits such an act, you would think you would feel something when you saw the person. I got no sense of anything. We thought it was important to have someone stand up for the people who were killed or injured — who were unable to be here.”
Doctor Jerry Rabinowitz, one of the 11 killed in the shooting, was a particularly close friend of the couple through the years. Pushinsky had also served as president on the board of directors for the synagogue for many years.
Clickner further explained her and her husband’s decision to attend the arraignment.
“This was a hard thing to witness, but think part of the grieving process is to face it head on,” she said.
The victims of the shooting, the youngest of whom was 54-years-old, include a pair of brothers and a married couple. Those injured in the shooting were transported to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital and UPMC Mercy, while Bowers, who was injured in the shootout with police, was taken to Allegheny General Hospital. There, despite the nurses and doctors trying to save his life all being Jewish, he continued his tirade that “all Jews must die.”