By Sofia Romanoli ‘19
It’s the call no one wants to get. The call that sent alumnus Aidan Boyle into “a rigid state of shock” as he sat in Carnegie Mellon University’s locker room: the call that there is a shooter nearby.
On a crisp Saturday morning, 46-year-old Robert Gregory Bowers opened fire at the L’Simcha Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
On October 27, 2018, Mr. Bowers decided to take the lives of 11 people and wound six others, including four police officers. Carrying an assault rifle and an array of handguns, Bowers entered the synagogue, the Tree of Life Congregation, and shot indiscriminately into the crowd.
Officers arrived as Bowers attempted to leave after the atrocities he had just committed, so Bowers barricaded himself in a room, eventually surrendering. He was injured, but it is unclear if the wounds were self-inflicted or if they had been the product of interaction with police officers.
What was left behind as he was transferred to Allegheny General Hospital was a scene F.B.I. special agent Robert Jones said, according to The New York Times, as the “most horrific” he had seen in 22 years of service in Pittsburgh.
At the crime scene, Bowers was still shouting the phrase “I just want to kill Jews” when he arrived at the hospital. The head of the surgical team that tended to Bowers was Jewish himself, a doctor who regularly attends the synagogue where the atrocities occurred. Dr. Jeff Cohen told the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 News that “[his] job isn’t to judge… [his] job is to care for him [Bowers].”
The doctor displayed a neutral and unprejudiced attitude towards the suspect, who regularly posted anti-Semitic content on social media but had no previous criminal history.
Nearby the Pittsburgh synagogue where this rampage, described by The New York Times as “among the deadliest against the Jewish community in the United States,” occurred is none other than Carnegie Mellon University, where Unionville alumni Aidan Boyle studies and plays football.
The well-respected private institution was locked down in response to the shooting but, in Boyle’s words, “[came] together” in the wake of this utter tragedy “as opposed to having been divided” in regards to views on gun control.
Boyle had just finished football practice when he got the call that there was a shooter near the campus. He later learned the massacre was only a mile away from where he was.
“The only feeling we could really understand… was shock,” Boyle said. He later admitted that “no one knew what was going on for the longest time” and that he and his teammates had to sit in solidarity in the locker room, with the news of a shooter plaguing their minds.
“It’s a weird feeling,” Boyle said, “when you know that there is a shooter nearby. You hear news about these type of things almost too frequently, but never think it will happen to you. Except, it did for me, and I still find it chilling to say that aloud.”
About 2,500 people gathered to mourn those lives lost the day following the shooting, with many protesting current laws on gun control.
Boyle had believed “there was an issue with these laws” before the shooting, so Bowers’ actions did not change his views. They did, however, reinforce Boyle’s support for “stricter background checks for guns.”
While Boyle is steady in his support for “our right to bear arms,” he does not believe that people should be wielding semi-automatic rifles. Boyle said that he believes there is a direct correlation between the rampant and unregulated market for these types of guns and “dangerously intolerant” people like Bowers.
Showing “no real emotion,” Bowers was indicted on 44 federal counts, including hate crimes. U.S. prosecutor Scott Brady made the mission of the federal government clear in his statement that “[his] office will spare no resource and will work with professionalism, integrity, and diligence in a way that honors the memories of the victims.”