Tree of Life Tragedy


On October 27, 2018, a nightmare hit home when a gunman attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, killing 11 congregants. The trauma of another mass shooting, this time in our backyard, shocked a peaceful neighborhood where worshipers of different faiths have lived side by side for over a century. In the days after the massacre, the community mobilized, rallied and took a stand against hate. I’m grateful to have been part of the newsroom effort at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to tell the stories of the heroes and honor the victims.


The day after the shooting, I designed, edited and hardcoded a page that detailed every life lost at the synagogue. We decided to simply list the names because it conveyed the sorrow of the event while giving readers an entry point to learn more about each person. When the interactive was published the next day, the PG audience responded with more than 20,000 pageviews. More important, I hope that the online experience allowed the grieving process to begin for a community still reeling from its darkest hour.


During the week after the massacre, a team of reporters led by Shelly Bradbury began to piece together the definitive account of the shooting. The coverage showed the fierce resolve of the survivors, first responders and Squirrel HIll community. I teamed up with developer Sam Underwood to create ‘Unbroken,’ a presentation that used police 911 calls to lead the reader through the narrative. We leveraged the HTML audio track tag to sync the playing/pausing of the emergency communications as the user scrolls through the story.


The design for the victims interactive became the vision for the front page of the Post-Gazette on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. Whether you picked up the paper on your doorstep or viewed images of that A-1 cover on TV newscasts around the country, you saw the names of the 11 victims emblazoned in large white type on a solemn black background. I hope that in emphasizing those names, we honored the victims and their stories so they’ll never be forgotten.