Hours after synagogue shooting, Pittsburgh begins healing process through sports

No matter the corner of Pittsburgh, the city’s 300,000 people share two things in common: black and gold.

“Not only is it a city that loves sports, people say it’s a family,” said Brian Hutchinson, a Pittsburgh sports fan.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans stand for a moment of silence for the victims of a deadly shooting spree at a synagogue on Saturday before the start of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans stand for a moment of silence for the victims of a deadly shooting spree at a synagogue on Saturday before the start of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Those colors — representing the steel city’s football, ice hockey and baseball professional teams — carry Pittsburghers through ups and downs, including Saturday’s mass shooting that left 11 dead and six injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

Despite the weekend’s tragedy, tens of thousands of fans poured into Heinz stadium just more than 24 hours later — full of smiles, laughter and, of course, booze.

“You never stop life and love in the face of evil,” said Hutchinson. “We are a family. That was never exemplified more than today in the aftermath of this tragedy in Squirrel Hill.”

Yinzers, like Hutchinson, sought refuge at Sunday’s Steelers game — away from the community’s utter loss.

“You can’t let the hate get you down, you have to come together,” Ashley Senopole said, before tightly hugging a loved one.

Fellow fan Amber Biscella agreed. “I think it’s not about our differences now, it’s really about how we’re all the same,” she told Fox News.

Fan after fan emphasized how close the Pittsburgh community is, including Squirrel Hill resident Hutchinson. He said he did not know any of the victims personally, but added, “Any of us are only a relationship removed from something like that in this town.”

The feeling of unity and love underscored by fans spilled over from the stands onto the field, with players also offering condolences to families of the victims.

A hush fell over Heinz Field Sunday just before kickoff in a moment of silence, commemorating the lives lost.

Steelers President Art Rooney II released a statement saying, in part, "Our hearts are heavy, but we must stand against anti-Semitism and hate crimes of any nature and come together to preserve our values and our community."

Professional athletes — boasting the black and gold — echoed these sentiments on Twitter.

Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster wrote, “My prayers goes out to families of the victims, everyone in the city of Pittsburgh, and the Jewish-American community, I can’t believe the news. Stay strong #PittsburghSynagogueShooting.”

Pittsburgh’s ice hockey and baseball teams chimed in as well.

Penguins’ Matt Murray tweeted, “Love is stronger than hate and we won't let this tragedy tear us down. My heart is with Pittsburgh. #StrongerThanHate.”

The Pirates’ starting pitcher, Jameson Taillon, wrote, “My heart seriously hurts for Pittsburgh and all of the innocent people that have been affected. #PittsburghStrong.”

Many tweets were partnered with an image — a spinoff of the Steelers’ logo, featuring the Star of David and the text, “#StrongerThanHate,” printed in a Boston font as a nod to that city’s comeback from the marathon bombing.

"Every share of [the logo] is something that is an act of love in my mind and something that is trying to diminish hate,” said Tim Hindes, the creator of the now viral image. “And for that, that makes me greatly proud.”

Hindes added it’s not a complex shape or anything “all that creative,” but he said that’s the point. “Pittsburgh people are innovative, but we’re simple people too.”

Simple, like the message fans were sending Sunday: “We are proud of the fact that we’re a big family. It’s not cliché. We really do care for one another — black, white, young and old, we’re a family.”