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Pittsburgh Grapples To Explain Synagogue Tragedy To Children


And, as you just heard, we've been talking quite a bit today about how people are mourning and how they're trying to make sense of this tragedy. But it's not just adults who are trying to make sense of yesterday's shooting. And tragedies like this that are unfortunately all too common - a lot of people are thinking about their children and how to talk to them about tragedies like this. NPR's Sarah McCammon has been reporting on that story, and she's back with us in the studio.

Sarah, thanks so much for coming back and doing this.


MCCAMMON: And I understand that you have actually covered a lot of these shootings, and this is something that is really on people's minds.

MCCAMMON: Unfortunately, I've covered several of these now in my career as a journalist. And, you know, anytime there's a senseless act of violence, especially these mass shootings, it's hard to explain it to children, especially for people in the area and the community affected. It's impossible, though, for kids not to hear about it, right - on the news, and their friends and neighbors are talking about it. Even if they're not directly involved in the tragedy, I've found a lot of people struggle with how to talk to their children - how to explain things and not terrify them.

MARTIN: So you did - we mentioned earlier that you went to the synagogue, the neighborhood outside the synagogue. You also went some other places. Tell us about that.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. I actually went over to the Children's Museum here in Pittsburgh. It's a pretty famous - really great one, actually. And they have opened it up to the public for free this week Monday through Friday. They want a place for families to go and feel safe and comfortable, they say. And today was a pretty normal, busy day at the museum, and staffers were thinking about ways to reach out to families today, too. I met a woman named Jessy Levann (ph). She was hanging out with her family, and she said something I've been hearing repeatedly in talking to people in Pittsburgh today.

JESSY LEVANN: Just that you hear it happening everywhere, but you never really think it's happening here.

MCCAMMON: She says she's not sure how to broach the subject with her two kids, ages 4 and 6.

LEVANN: We're from Canada, so we just - we don't see these sorts of things really happen up there, so it's very new to us living here for the last year to start seeing it more prevalently. Yeah, it's alarming.

MCCAMMON: Across the room, Alicia Hoffman (ph) was also unsure what to tell her two kids, ages 6 and 3, about what they're seeing in the news.

ALICIA HOFFMAN: It's hard to - I guess put it into a context where they understand. You know, so we haven't really talked about it yet. I have to think about how we will.

MCCAMMON: Hoffman grew up in the Pittsburgh area and was back here to visit family. And, like so many here, she has ties to the synagogue.

HOFFMAN: A lot of my friends had bat and bar mitzvahs at Tree of Life. I had attended Sunday school because my best friend growing up was Jewish, and that's where she went. So it was just really surprising, upsetting - you know, disappointing that people get these thoughts in their head and do it, you know? And think that they - not think that they can, but they actually can.

MCCAMMON: Devin Dill runs the make shop - a play and craft area for the kids. She says the museum staff has been grappling with how to help children and their parents during this scary time.

DEVIN DILL: So today, it's hard to be at work. It's hard to know that we are the helpers here, and we are the ones offering support for those families and children while we are also struggling with our own feelings. But the way that I'm looking at it is that, you know, we are part of a community together as people, and being with the community right now feels important and powerful for me, too.

MCCAMMON: Dill says today's plan originally focused on Halloween. But, after the shooting, she switched things up and encouraged the kids to build models of houses and buildings and other familiar places they care about - places that make Pittsburgh home.

Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Pittsburgh.

MARTIN: Sarah, thank you for that. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.