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Groundbreaking set to take place on Sunday morning for new Tree of Life campus in Squirrel Hill

Groundbreaking to take place for new Tree of Life campus
Groundbreaking to take place for new Tree of Life campus 00:23

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Today will be a monumental day in Pittsburgh as a groundbreaking ceremony is set to take place for the new Tree of Life campus in Squirrel Hill. 

Plans for the new campus include a memorial honoring the victims of the mass shooting that happened in 2018. 

It will be a first-of-its-kind museum focused on the historical and modern acts of antisemitism in the United States. 

Along with members of the community, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro will be in attendance to deliver remarks. 

The groundbreaking is set to begin around 11 a.m. on Sunday morning and we will be streaming the ceremony here on CBS News Pittsburgh

Turning the page

In April last year, as the trial for the then-accused gunman Robert Bowers began, the Tree of Life congregation gathered to hold a special ceremony to reflect and to tell the synagogue, 'L'hitraot' – 'Until we see each other again,' closing one chapter, before opening a new one.

"This is not a final moment but a pause into the next chapter," Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said at the ceremony. "We'll be back again, and evil did not chase us from our building."

Myers listed off celebrations from weddings to baby namings, sisterhood events, and bar and bat mitzvahs, engaging the crowd by asking them to raise their hands if they went to one of these events at the synagogue.

They'll always have those memories as they prepare for a new era of the congregation.

Robert Bowers found guilty, sentenced to death

In 37 days of trial, the jury saw picture evidence of the brutal murders of each of the 11 victims shot at close range with an AR-15 rifle, heard the testimony of victims and police survivors, and family members who described their immeasurable loss. 

The jury in the trial of Robert Bowers recommended the death penalty after finding him guilty on 63 counts on June 16, 2023. 

The verdict took less than 5 hours.

"These quick verdicts usually mean that the jury is unified and that they've already kind of tuned out what the defense is trying to argue," trial consultant Dave Zehner said. "And it's very difficult then to get into the death eligibility phase and convince jurors they should listen to you, and they've completely ignored what you've had to say earlier."

In September 2023, Bowers arrived on death row in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

11 killed, several others hurt in shooting

On October 27, 2018, Bowers walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue with an AR-15 and three handguns and yelled "All Jews must die" before open firing. 

In total, Bowers killed 11 worshippers and wounded several others. 

A heavy police presence responded, including the Pittsburgh Police SWAT Team. 

Officers began searching the third floor of the synagogue when they encountered Bowers again, who opened fire on the SWAT team. One officer was shot multiple times and critically wounded and another officer was also shot multiple times by Bowers. The remaining SWAT officers engaged Bowers while the two injured officers were carried outside to Pittsburgh Paramedics.

Bowers was injured in the exchange of gunfire. After being taken into custody, the suspect made statements to an officer that he wanted all Jews to die and also that Jews were committing genocide on his people, according to authorities.

The shooting happened during weekly Shabbat services at the synagogue. The building was full of people for a Saturday service and police said they received several calls from people barricaded inside.

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