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Tree of LIfe memorial

November 16, 2018

Memorial Gives Community Outlet for Expression

Reflections will help add life to Peace Garden

By Bruce Gerson

A temporary memorial has been placed in the Cohon University Center for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue tragedy, providing a space of support and healing for the Carnegie Mellon University community. This spring the memorial will help give life in a place of peace.

Students, faculty, staff and visitors to the memorial are being asked to anonymously share their thoughts on biodegradable paper tags and to tie them to a three-sided fencelike structure in the Cohon Center’s Lee Lobby. The personal reflections will eventually be mulched and used to nurture a memorial tree that will be planted this spring in the Peace Garden adjacent to Hunt Library.

CMU’s Tree of Life memorial gives community members an outlet to visibly express their sorrow, prayers, support and hope.

Tree of Life memorial messageThe idea came from the UPLift Committee and several members of the CMU community, who wanted to find a way to help the community cope with the horrific event in Squirrel Hill. Members of the organizing team included Francis Carter, a Ph.D. student in the School of Design; Kristin Hughes, associate professor of design; Jonny Cagwin, coordinator of Religious Life programs; Liz Vaughan, associate dean of Student Affairs and director of Student Leadership, Involvement and Civic Engagement (SLICE); and Daragh Byrne, assistant teaching professor in the School of Architecture.

Contributors to the memorial are expressing sadness, faith, love and compassion.

“The pain I felt was unimaginable. I want the strength to overcome that and give love to every person affected,” one person wrote.

“To those that have passed, I honor your memory. The lesson will not go untaught,” wrote a member of the CMU community. “I will continue to lead with an open heart. I will continue to embody compassion and I will continue to fight for everyone’s right to live without fear of guns.”

“Let’s resolve to come together in love,” wrote another. “Whenever hate raises its head … the more we will spread love.”

One individual expressed hope in finding strength in the community. 

“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what to write on this tag and I still can’t find the words. I hope this is a space where we can find the words together.”