The rabbi of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 Jews were murdered by a white supremacist gunman on Saturday has told an interviewer that he regrets that he was unable to save more people.
“I could only save some,” Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said in a conversation with “CBS This Morning” co-host Bianna Golodryga. “The people in the back of the sanctuary I could not save.”
Myers on Monday gave horrifying new details of the attack. Speaking on NBC’s “Today Show” and separately on CNN, Myers – who this summer had written on the synagogue blog that national leaders need to do more to stop mass shootings — said the morning Shabbat services had started normally when suddenly he heard a loud noise. He thought it might be a metal coat rack crashing to the floor — possibly because an elderly congregant had fallen.
Then he saw three people from another congregation running on the stairs and heard semi-automatic gunfire. He told everyone to “drop to the floor, don’t utter a sound, and don’t move,” he told CNN.
He said he hoped the heavy oak pews in the sanctuary would provide some protection. He then ushered the people in the front pews toward exits or closets where they could hide. But there were eight people in the rear pews of the sanctuary, he said, and when he turned back toward them he heard the gunfire getting louder, and realized it was no longer safe to be there. He went upstairs to the choir loft, and called 911, and stayed on the line for about 20 minutes, he said. He hid in a bathroom that had no lock on it.
“I heard him execute my congregants,” he told NBC. “I didn’t watch it. I couldn’t watch it,”
Investigators recovered three handguns, two rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition from Bowers’s residence, a law enforcement official said, which adds to the four weapons authorities said they recovered at the synagogue. Police have said Bowers was taken into custody after a shootout with police that seriously injured some of the officers. Myers said he was rescued by SWAT officers before Bowers was taken into custody.
“I do live with regret,” Myers told CNN. “I wish I could have done more.”
Asked whether the shooter — 46-year-old Robert Bowers, who was arrested at the scene — could ever be forgiven, Myers replied, “Wow. Big question. I just don’t know. The wounds are too open to answer that. I have to really think about that. Can you really forgive everybody for all evil is one of those big theological questions and right now I can’t answer it.”