Squirrel Hill Residents Emulate Mr. Rogers After Tragic Synagogue Shooting

The creator of ‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’ once lived in Squirrel Hill, and his words are helping current citizens heal.

Fred Rogers, a star of children’s television for decades, lived in Squirrel Hill — the exact area in Pittsburgh where the horrific Tree of Life synagogue shooting happened, ABC News is reporting. Eleven people were tragically killed on Saturday, October 27, in an area which some people regard as literally Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. Now, current residents of Squirrel Hill are looking to Rogers for inspiration during this troubling time.

Rogers, who created the heartwarming and educational PBS children’s show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, passed away of stomach cancer in 2003. Still, his legacy lives on and people still take his positive words to heart in the present day. Rogers not only educated children, but helped adults understand how to communicate with children. One statement he made to the press in 1999 resonates strongly with the public to this day.

“Whenever there would be any real catastrophe, she would say, ‘Always look for the helpers,’” he said of a conversation he had with his own mother. “‘There will always be helpers just on the sidelines.’”

Rogers would often broach difficult subjects and discussed how to talk about important issues with children. He emphasized the idea that it was okay to not always be happy — that it was okay to be sad and okay to be angry sometimes. Most importantly, Rogers was inclusive. He made sure to emphasize diversity on his show, and often had guests who were differently-abled than him. He also put a focus on guests who were a different race than him, which was very controversial at the time.

“No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” he said once. A home in Squirrel Hill now has a sign in their front yard that says this.

Current residents of Squirrel Hill are working to rebuild after the recent tragedy. Many are turning to Mr. Rogers for wisdom. A blood donor for victims of the shooting, Lana Ramsey, donned a shirt that said “I will be your neighbor” while in line to give blood. Other residents are volunteering their skills to assist victims of the tragedy, such as Dr. Jeffery Cohen, who lives across the street from the synagogue and immediately offered his medical services upon hearing the news. Cohen went on to say that he believes leaders should be “helpers.”

Kristen Lane, a spokeswoman of the blood bank Vitalant Pittsburgh, was pleased to see Pittsburgh residents coming together to lend a hand.

“The patience that people are demonstrating today — waiting to donate blood is Pittsburgh, it’s community,” she said.

One can assume that this community is just the type of special neighborhood that Rogers always envisioned.

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