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'The Working Group' Spent Months Creating Tree Of Life Commemoration Ceremony In Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A small group of people spent the last six months crafting Wednesday's Tree of Life commemoration ceremony.

The group calls themselves "The Working Group." They put aside their own grief to create a commemoration of healing to honor the memories of the 11.

For survivor Carol Black, year three will feel different.

The working group
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

"The first one was very public. It was at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial. There was all kinds of coverage," Black said.

Black survived the shooting, hiding inside the Tree of Life Synagogue. Her brother, beloved dentist Richard Gottfried, did not. Black's now setting aside her grief to plan.

"I wanted an active part in it because I wanted to do something that would help steer the direction that it went in," Black said.

Black said the first year felt raw. The pandemic turned the second year into video messages and virtual tributes. The third year now brings unity.

"We need to show the world that we are still here. We have survived, and we're going forward. We're standing up straight, and we will be here no matter what, together as a family," said Barbara Caplan, co-president of New Light Congregation.

With this year's commemoration happening outdoors in Schenley Park, near the grove of trees planted this spring in memory of the 11, the group wanted to focus on special music, rituals, prayers and moments of healing.

"I don't think anyone believes it's been three years. I hear that all over the place. ... We just had our group last night, and they all said they can't wait for Oct. 28. There's so much anxiety moving up to the date," said LuLu Orr from Jewish Family Community Services.

That's why Maggie Feinstein and the 10.27 Healing Partnership will be there in the days that follow and why she calls this group a safe space.

"What you find is you have never thought about it from the perspective of a synagogue president, or I never thought about it from the perspective of a family member," Feinstein said. "So once we all can think together, I have found it to be really meaningful. And this group especially this year has really hit the stride of hearing each other, listening to each other, challenging each other."

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