It’s been one week since a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh – and one week of grief for an entire city. Carol Black, both a family member of one of the victims and a survivor of the attack herself, took shelter in a closet with fellow congregants.
She shared her story of survival with CBS News’ David Begnaud, and remembered the brother she lost.
“It’s starting to have a finality to me that he’s gone and it’s a crushing blow,” Black said of losing her brother, Richard Gottfried.
Black described her brother, a dentist readying for retirement, as an avid reader, a runner and someone everybody loved. “He was just the most amazing, loving, kind, funny, smart human being,” Black said. “He was very spiritual and it was very much a part of his life. … We’ve said he was the heartbeat of the congregation.”
Black said that when she heard the first gunshots it sounded like somebody was dropping a metal table on a tile floor. Then they heard it again. Soon, she said, the rabbi figured out what it was from and she hid in a storage area with Barry Werber.
“Mel (Wax) who was in the hallway and his hearing was not very good … he opened the door and peeked out and the gunman was still in the sanctuary looking for more people to eliminate and saw him and he came into the area and shot him. Mel just laid right by our feet and died,” Black
Black said she never saw the gunman, just his shadow. But she did hear him coming.
“I guess when he thought he got all of us he moved onto another part of the building. He went into the kitchen … and he heard their voices and he knew there were people in there and he went in and shot them,” Black said.
One of those people in the kitchen was her brother.
“I think the time that he spent shooting them actually is what gave us the time to escape the room and to me they are martyrs, they gave us the time so that we’re still here,” she said.
Black is thankful for the 911 callers who she said remained on the phone with her and Barry until they were rescued by a SWAT team. They were then put in the back of a patrol car where she said they heard everything else unfold on the police radio.
“My heart kept saying well maybe he managed to escape although really there was nowhere for him to go. He and Dan were trapped, they were sitting ducks … there was no way they were going to survive,” Black said.
The suspected gunman, Robert Bowers, was charged with 44 counts including murder, hate crimes, and obstructing the practice of religion. Earlier this week, he pleaded not guilty to the charges that could put him on death row, but Black hopes he isn’t sentenced to death.
“Because I think that’s too easy and I don’t want him to have it easy. I want him to spend the rest of his miserable life locked up because he has no remorse and I think his only regret is that he didn’t get us all.”
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