Ray Iwanonkiw Sr., a resident of a neighboring community agrees with Trump’s position: “We need protection,” he continued, explaining that while he doesn’t believe violence will solve violence, he just doesn’t see any sensible way to stop what he calls the “insensible.”
“If people know that there is the presence of security here [in places of worship] they are going to back off,” he added.
Logan Gatenby, a student at the University of Pittsburgh, says he was born in 1996, and he frankly can’t remember a time when armed forces and metal detectors weren’t the norms.
“I was born after Columbine,” said Gatenby. “When someone has the intentions to do something this heinous I don’t know if government action or policy can really change someone’s intention to do something so evil.”
But when asked if he would feel safer with armed guards in his place of worship, his response was unsure. “I just don’t know about the concept,” said Gatenby. He added that in the city of Mr. Rogers, “for every one person you see doing something hateful, there are hundreds who are trying to help.”
According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, a total of 293 mass shooting incidents have occurred in 2018 — Saturday’s shooting marks the 294th.
It’s a number Rabbi Ethan Linden, both a former resident, and now leader of a New York congregation, says he won’t accept as a norm.
“I lived in Europe for two years, and every synagogue has a police officer in front of it and always felt to me like a sad statement,” said Linden.
“I don’t want people to have to have guns to go to synagogue, school, or to camps I want us to find some common sense changes so that people don’t feel like they need to be armed just to leave their homes.”
In a community still grieving, vigils like Sunday’s are the first step in finding peace and discussing how and if they can return to a sense of normalcy. And while normal may look different for the group, they have all taken comfort in one another and found peace that suspect Robert Bowers is no longer a threat to their community.
“I don’t have all the answers,” said Iwanonkiw. “And everyone may not agree with me, but I am thankful and proud of how we’ve come together.”
Bowers’ first court appearance is scheduled for October 29.