By Steve Suroviec, President and CEO
It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since the tragedy that took the lives of eleven Pittsburghers, two of whom were members of the ACHIEVA family – Cecil and David Rosenthal.
When we look back to October 27, 2018, we at ACHIEVA remember the horror we felt when we first heard there had been a shooting and it was possible that David and Cecil had been at the Tree of Life. We waited to hear news that David and Cecil were okay - that they were alright and safe. All day we waited, but that news never came.
In the days following the tragedy, the ACHIEVA family gathered to celebrate the lives of Cecil and David Rosenthal. We struggled to understand what had happened and why it had happened. But there were no explanations – at least none that were acceptable or that made any sense. With pain in their voices, those who had known Cecil and David talked about what had happened but with smiles on their faces recounted the many positive memories of being around and working with David and Cecil.
Last week, in commemoration of the tragedy, the ACHIEVA family came together again – this time to mark one year since Cecil and David had been taken from us. Nothing will bring them back, and while nothing we do could ever provide a sense of real and long-lasting comfort, it was very important to come together to remember and honor Cecil and David Rosenthal - two very special people - friends to so many.
During that same event, ACHIEVA was able to give the first funding award from the Cecil and David Rosenthal Memorial Fund. It went to Chris Brown - Cecil and David’s roommate. Chris was awarded a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania and an I-Pad with a stylus to help him communicate with others. The Cecil and David Rosenthal Memorial Fund was created by the ACHIEVA Board of Trustees in November 2018 after ACHIEVA received tens of thousands of dollars in unsolicited gifts from people in nearly 40 states and four countries. The Memorial Fund will be used to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities participate in, and become valued members of, their community – just like Cecil and David did during their well-lived lives.
In a private ceremony later that day, representatives of the ACHIEVA family joined members of the Rosenthal family at the home where Cecil and David had lived. A stone marker and two weeping cherry trees were planted in memory of Cecil and David. I was honored to be included in that very special occasion, and I’m pleased ACHIEVA was able to play a role in creating a small but permanent reminder that Cecil and David lived on this earth, and that they were valued members of their family, valued members of their community, and valued members of the home in which they lived.